A new analysis of the measurements made by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, more than 20 years ago on one of Jupiter’s moons, Europe, has revealed that it could have enough ingredients to house life.
The new study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, points out that Galileo – a satellite that investigated Jupiter and its moons, for almost 14 years – flew through a huge plume of water vapor that emerged from the icy surface of the moon Europa. in the form of a geyser and reached a height of hundreds of kilometers, according to the researchers in a statement.
The team in charge of the mission did not suspect that the satellite had pierced a plume of water vapor
In 1997, when the Galileo spacecraft was flying about 200 kilometers above the surface of Europe, its sensors moved with signals that the team in charge could not explain at that time. He did not suspect that the satellite had pierced a plume of water vapor from the icy moon.
Therefore, this new study would confirm the idea that already emerged from observations of the Hubble Space Telescope taken in 2016. The images transmitted from Hubble showed what appeared to be columns of water flying from the surface of Europe. “We went back to see the images and we looked at them more closely. We discovered that they were what you would expect if we had flown through a pen, “says Margaret Kivelson, of the Galileo mission and professor at the University of California, in a statement.
There is a great possibility that spacecraft can obtain samples of the liquid and dust particles from the feathers that eject material from the subsurface ocean into space
The team deduced that when the water columns dot Europe, the molecules are immediately struck by highly energetic particles, a process that destroys them in charged ions. It is these ions that produce rapid changes in the direction of the magnetic field and increase the density of the plasma on the geyser.
“Given the evidence of feathers available so far, there is a great possibility that spacecraft can obtain samples of the liquid and dust particles from the feathers that eject material from the subsurface ocean into space,” describes Xianzhe Jia, the scientist leader of the investigation.
Sending a spacecraft to take a sample of that type of geyser could be the most practical way to verify that there is life
Jia has performed computer simulations that have shown that a 190-kilometer-high geyser that erupts can create the same conditions as if it erupted on the Europa moon. The hidden waters of Europe have become the main objective in the search for extraterrestrial life, since under its frozen crust there is a liquid ocean with more water than the Earth contains and send a spacecraft to take a sample of that type of geyser could be the “most practical” way to verify it, according to the research team.
“These observations will provide crucial information so that we can assess Europe’s life potential and we will be able to see more clearly if it has enough ingredients to sustain life,” says Robert Pappalardo, a scientist at NASA’s ‘Europa Clipper’ mission. that could be launched in June 2022.