After studying years of ancient Hubble space observations, a scientist discovered just brand new signs of water vapor that persisted Europe. When it comes to our solar system, there are certain destinations that tend to take the spotlight. Mars is the focal point for many people right now, there is a new interest in the Moon, and everything else tends to take the back seat in mainstream conversations. However, one place that is rapidly rising in interest is Europe.
Europe is one of four Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter. It is the sixth largest known moon in the solar system, has a surface covered in ice and is widely believed to have huge floating oceans beneath its hard surface. Many people in the space and science societies believe that alien life lives in this ocean deep below the surface of Europe. Europe may not get the same attention as its cousins on Mars and Moon, but it has countless secrets just waiting to be revealed.
This latest discovery comes from hard work from Lorenz Roth – a member of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Space and Plasma Physics in Sweden. After analyzing Hubble observations made by Europe between 1999 and 2015, it was revealed that there is a constant flow of water vapor on a particular lunar half. Hubble previously found water vapor on Europe in 2013 when it caught feathers coming up through the ice (similar to geysers on Earth). However, this latest finding suggests that water vapor is much more prevalent than anyone had realized.
The observations that led to this discovery included several images and spectra that Hubble captured during the 16-year period. In particular, Roth looked at ultraviolet readings Hubble took from Europe in 1999, 2012, 2014 and 2015 – and these years chose to look at Europe while in different orbital positions. This is the same technique that NASA used to find water vapor on the Jupiter moon Ganymede back in July. According to Roth, “The observation of water vapor on Ganymede and on the back of Europe promotes our understanding of the atmosphere of icy moons. However, the discovery of a stable water volume on Europe is a little more surprising than on Ganymede because Europe’s surface temperatures are lower than Ganymede. “ Although Europe is about 60 ° F cooler than Ganymede, these findings confirm that water vapor is formed in Europe in exactly the same way.
As mentioned above, water vapor was detected on only one hemisphere in Europe – specifically its ‘rear hemisphere’. As NASA explains, this is the part of Europe that “is always opposite its direction of movement along its path.” Europe’s second ‘leading’ hemisphere is the one moving in the direction of its orbit. NASA does not fully understand the cause of this split in motion. For some reason, the rear hemisphere is home to an abundant amount of steam that the leader lacks.
Even with the weird stuff around this discovery, this is still a huge win all around. Scientists and astronomers now have a clearer understanding of Europe’s atmosphere and the water vapor present there. This information will also prove extremely valuable for future European missions. The European Space Agency plans to explore Europe as part of its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission, just as NASA is doing with the Europa Clipper mission in 2024. Much is still unknown about Europe, but as long as we keep moving us in this direction, many of its biggest questions will soon be revealed.