Europa: A Salty Piece of Land?

Europa: A Salty Piece of Land?Credit : JPL

Europa: A Salty Piece of Land?
Credit : JPL


A team of scientists working at NASA’s JPL and Cal-Tech studying Jupiter’s moon Europa, have found evidence of a chemical exchange between the frozen, radiation swept surface and a liquid ocean which is believed to exist beneath an ice pack nearly 60 miles thick.

Using spectrographic analysis of surface ice taken from the Keck II telescope in Hawaii, the pair found a clear signature of magnesium sulfate, believed to be formed from a combination of sulfur emanating from Jupiter’s innermost moon Io, and magnesium chloride salt welling up from the Europan ocean below. The find is significant because if the exchange is actually taking place it is a sign that the subsurface ocean is richer and more diverse than it otherwise would be, and could in fact be quite similar to Earth’s own oceans, and thus an ideal candidate for life. But then again if you read Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010: Odyssey Two, you already know that, and are probably smart enough to stay away, heeding the warning ” All these world are yours except Europa, attempt no landing there”

The full story (not the book) can be found here.

Epilogue:  Apparently following advice for once, Russia announced today that it is planning a landing mission for Europa’s sister moon, Ganymede in 2023,  which may or may not be part of the European Space Agency’s  Jucy Icy Moon Explorer (Juice) mission scheduled for 2022. The JUICE mission will spend several years in orbit around the gas giant before finally settling into an orbit (wisely) around Ganymede.

Posted in: Outer Planets

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