After studying the old Hubble space observations for many years, a scientist has just discovered new signs of water vapor residues EuropeWhen it comes to our solar system, certain destinations often become the focus of attention. Mars is now the focus of many people, interest in the moon has resurfaced, and everything else has taken a back seat in mainstream conversations. However, one place that arouses people’s interest is Europa.
Europa is one of the four Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter. It is the sixth largest known satellite in the solar system. Its surface is covered with ice. It is generally believed that there is a vast liquid ocean beneath its harsh surface. Many people in space and science believe that extraterrestrial life lives in the ocean deep on Europa’s surface. Europa may not receive the same attention as its Mars and Moon cousins, but it has countless secrets waiting to be discovered.
This latest discovery comes from the hard work of Lorenz Roth, a member of the Swedish KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Space and Plasma Physics. After analyzing Hubble’s observations of Europa from 1999 to 2015, it was discovered that there was a continuous flow of water vapor in a specific hemisphere of the moon. Hubble discovered water vapor on Europa in 2013 when it captured a plume (similar to a geyser on Earth) that passed through the ice. However, this latest discovery shows that water vapor is far more common than anyone realizes.
The observations that led to this discovery included a large number of images and spectra captured by Hubble over a 16-year period. Specifically, Rose observed Hubble’s UV readings of Europa in 1999, 2012, 2014, and 2015—choosing to observe Europa in different orbits during these years. This is the same technique used by NASA to search for water vapor on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede in July. According to Rose, “Observations of the water vapor on the trailing side of Europa and Europa have contributed to our understanding of the atmosphere of ice satellites. However, the detection of stable water abundance on Europa is more surprising than on Europa. Because Europa’s surface temperature is lower than Europa’s.” Although Europa’s temperature is 60°F lower than Europa, these findings confirm that water vapor forms on Europa in exactly the same way.
As mentioned above, water vapor is only found in one hemisphere of Europa-especially its “trailing hemisphere.”As NASA explained, this is part of Europa “Always the opposite of the direction of movement along its orbit.” Europa’s second “leading” hemisphere is the hemisphere that moves along its orbit. NASA does not fully understand the reasons for this split of movement. For whatever reason, the trailing hemisphere is home to a lot of steam that the leading hemisphere lacks.
Even if there are some strange things surrounding this discovery, this is still a huge victory. Scientists and astronomers now have a clearer understanding of Europa’s atmosphere and the water vapor there. This information will also prove very valuable for future Europa missions. The European Space Agency plans to explore Europa as part of its Jupiter Ice Satellite Explorer mission, just like NASA’s Europa Clipper mission in 2024. There are still many unknowns about Europa, but as long as we continue to move in this direction, many of its biggest problems will be revealed soon.