NASA & SPACE NEWS
(NASA) – In the search for life beyond Earth, subsurface bodies of water in our outer solar system are some of the most important targets.
That’s why NASA is sending the Europa Clipper spacecraft to Jupiter’s moon Europa: There is strong evidence that under a thick crust of ice, the moon harbors a global ocean that could potentially be habitable.
But scientists believe the ocean isn’t the only water on Europa. Based on observations from NASA’s Galileo orbiter, they believe salty liquid reservoirs may reside inside the moon’s icy shell – some of them close to the surface of the ice and some many miles below.
The more scientists understand about the water that Europa may be holding, the more likely they will know where to look for it when NASA sends Europa Clipper in 2024 to conduct a detailed investigation.
The spacecraft will orbit Jupiter and use its suite of sophisticated instruments to gather science data as it flies by the moon about 50 times.
This color view of Jupiter’s moon Europa was captured by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. Scientists are studying processes that affect the surface as they prepare to explore the icy body.
Now, research is helping scientists better understand what the subsurface lakes in Europa may look like and how they behave.
A key finding in a paper published recently in Planetary Science Journal supports the longstanding idea that water could potentially erupt above the surface of Europa either as plumes of vapor or as cryovolcanic activity (think: flowing, slushy ice rather than molten lava).
The computer modeling in the paper goes further, showing that if there are eruptions on Europa, they likely come from shallow, wide lakes embedded in the ice and not from the global ocean far below.
“We demonstrated that plumes or cryolava flows could mean there are shallow liquid reservoirs below, which Europa Clipper would be able to detect,” said Elodie Lesage, Europa scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and lead author of the research.
“Our results give new insights into how deep the water might be that’s driving surface activity, including plumes. And the water should be shallow enough that it can be detected by multiple Europa Clipper instruments.”
CLICK HERE FOR BREVARD COUNTY NEWS
The post NASA Researchers Suggests Shallow Lakes in Europa’s Icy Crust Could Erupt appeared first on Space Coast Daily.