When NASA explored Jupiter’s Moon Europa in 1997, the Galileo Spacecraft flew through a ‘blast’ of alien ocean water, a new study has revealed.
The hidden waters of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, have become the primary objective in the search for extraterrestrial life for space agencies around the globe.
Now, thanks to a new analysis of data gathered by NASA’s Galileo Spacecraft more than 20 years ago, experts have revealed that the mon may be home to all necessary ingredients to sustain life as we know it.
Scientists have recently revealed that that Galileo, a satellite that investigated Jupiter and its moons for almost 14 years, flew through a massive plume of water vapor that emerged from the icy surface of Jupiter’s Moon in the form of a geyser and reached a height of hundreds of kilometers.
“There were some anomalous features in that close pass in December 1997 that we never fully understood,” said Margaret Kivelson, a senior scientist on the Galileo mission and emeritus professor of space physics at the University of California in Los Angeles.
“We went back and looked at them more thoroughly and discovered that they were just what you’d expect if we’d flown through a plume.”
According to the new study led by Xianzhe Jia, from the University of Michigan, the data was already there.
Only now we seem to confirm the idea that had already emerged from observations of the Hubble Space Telescope taken in 2012.
“The data was already there, but we needed advanced technology to make sense of the observations,” Jia said it’s a statement.
Back in 1997, when NASA’s Galileo spacecraft flew some 200 kilometers above Europa’s surface, mission scientists never thought that their spacecraft had flown through a plume of water vapor from the icy moon.
However, after learning a lot about water plumes, and water vapor from Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, and after a number of 3D studies, experts concluded that Jupiter’s Moon Europa might also have similar occurrences.
“Our detection of a plume based on the Galileo data certainly strengthens the case for future exploration of Europa,” Jia said. One Nasa mission, Europa Clipper, is scheduled to launch in the 2020s with the express aim of finding out whether the Jovian moon could harbor life. Another mission, ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or Juice, is expected to launch around the same time and perform flybys of Europa and two other Jovian moons, Ganymede and Callisto.
“Given the evidence of plumes available so far, there is a good chance that those spacecraft may obtain direct measurements of plumes ejecting material from the subsurface ocean into space,” said Jia.
“Those observations will provide crucial information for us to assess Europa’s potential for life.”
Now the best way to make sure there’s life on Europa is to actually take samples from the interior of the Jovian Moon. And NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, to be launched in 2022, may help scientists solve the mystery of Europa.
The hidden waters of Europa have become a major goal in the search for extraterrestrial life, and sending a spacecraft to take a sample of that type of geyser could be the “most practical” way to verify it, the scientists said.
Featured Image Credit: NASA/Flickr (public domain)