New ev­i­dence of wa­ter plumes on Jupiter moon

The Myanmar Times - - World -

MORE ev­i­dence of pos­si­ble wa­ter plumes erupt­ing from the sur­face of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa has been spot­ted us­ing NASA’s Hub­ble Space Tele­scope, the US space agency said.

Europa, one of more than 50 moons cir­cling the gas gi­ant, is con­sid­ered by NASA as a “top can­di­date” for life in the so­lar sys­tem be­cause it is be­lieved to pos­sess a mas­sive, salty, sub­sur­face ocean that is twice the size of Earth’s.

The lat­est find­ing has given sci­en­tists fresh hope that a ro­botic space­craft could one day fly past these po­ten­tial plumes and learn about their con­tents with­out hav­ing to drill miles deep into the moon’s icy shell.

“To­day, we are pre­sent­ing new Hub­ble ev­i­dence for wa­ter vapour plumes be­ing ex­pelled from the icy sur­face of Europa,” said Wil­liam Sparks, as­tronomer at the Space Tele­scope Sci­ence In­sti­tute in Bal­ti­more.

Us­ing ul­tra­vi­o­let images taken by Hub­ble, a space tele­scope that was launched in 1990, the po­ten­tial plumes are seen around the south­ern edge of Europa and ap­pear as “dark fin­gers or patches of pos­si­ble ab­sorp­tion”, Mr Sparks said.

They were spot­ted on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions over the course of 15 months when sci­en­tists ob­served Europa pass­ing in front of Jupiter.

The po­ten­tial plumes were only ob­served three out of 10 times when Europa passed by Jupiter, sug­gest­ing that the erup­tions are in­ter­mit­tent, he said.

“If plumes ex­ist, this is an ex­cit­ing find­ing be­cause it po­ten­tially gives eas­ier ac­cess to the ocean be­low,” said Mr Sparks.

How­ever, he cau­tioned that more ev­i­dence is needed for sci­en­tists to be cer­tain.

“We do not claim to have proven the ex­is­tence of plumes but rather con­trib­uted ev­i­dence that such ac­tiv­ity may be present,” he said. –

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