Tag Archives: Europa

Water plumes on Europa?

New data from the Hubble Space Telescope suggests that there might be active water plumes issuing from Europa that are fed by the planet’s underground ocean.

In 10 separate occurrences spanning 15 months, the team observed Europa passing in front of Jupiter. They saw what could be plumes erupting on three of these occasions.

This work provides supporting evidence for water plumes on Europa. In 2012, a team led by Lorenz Roth of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, detected evidence of water vapor erupting from the frigid south polar region of Europa and reaching more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) into space. Although both teams used Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph instrument, each used a totally independent method to arrive at the same conclusion.

These results are very very uncertain. As the lead scientist noted twice during the press conference, the data is at the very limits of Hubble’s capabilities. I would not be surprised at all if later observations find that it is in error.

In fact, the press conference itself was more a PR event to lobby for Hubble as well as the James Webb Space Telescope than it was a description of a new discovery. The discovery itself was given a much bigger tease than it really deserves, considering the very uncertain nature of its data. I am a big fan of Hubble, as anyone who has read anything I have written in the past two decades. Nonetheless, I find this blatant lobbying very annoying. Also very annoying will be the naive willingness of many in the press to buy into this story. Expect a lot of silly stories today and tomorrow screaming that water jets coming from Europa have been definitely photographed by Hubble.

Congress pushes for Europa missions

A new House budget bill stipulates that NASA fly two unmanned missions to Europa, including a lander, and do it soon.

The bill also includes several hundred million per year for the missions, at least at the beginning. Even though planetary scientists have recommended that NASA do at least one mission to Eurpoa relatively soon, it appears that these missions are the particular pet projects of the committee chairman in Congress.

Is the dark material along Europa’s long surface fissures sea salt?

The uncertainty of science: By creating what they call “Europa in a can” here on Earth, scientists have determined that the dark material that appears to have seeped out of Europa’s long linear fractures might be sea salt from the underground ocean, turned brown by the harsh radiation hitting the moon’s surface.

This result is quite intriguing, but the only thing certain about it is its uncertainty. The only way we will know what this brown material really is will be to go there again with much better equipment and study the material itself

Hubble discovers water vapor venting from Europa’s south pole.

Hubble discovers water vapor venting from Europa’s south pole.

It is not yet known if this water is coming from the interior or from the surface.

Be warned: None of the images from this press release are real. They are all artist’s impressions, but done in such a way as to look like actual Hubble images.

Europe has decided to build a probe, dubbed JUICE, to study Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, Jupiter’s big icy moons.

Europe has decided to build a probe to study Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, Jupiter’s big icy moons.

Known as JUICE, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, the probe will enter orbit around the gas giant planet in 2030 for a series of flybys of Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. JUICE will brake into orbit around Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, in 2032 for at least one year of close-up research.