NASA to reveal 'surprising' activity on Jupiter's moon Europa

September 23, 2016 by Kerry Sheridan
NASA announced last year that it intends to send a robotic spacecraft, equipped with a suite of scientific instruments, to circle Europa in the 2020s

There's something going on beneath the surface of Jupiter's icy moon Europa. But what?

NASA teased a "surprising" announcement for Monday, based on Hubble Space Telescope images of the celestial body, which many experts believe could contain a , even possibly some form of life.

The US has already proclaimed that Europa has "strong evidence for an ocean of liquid water beneath its crust and which could host conditions favorable for life."

At Monday's announcement, "astronomers will present results from a unique Europa observing campaign that resulted in surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean," it said in a statement.

The announcement will be made at a news conference at 2 pm (1800 GMT) Monday featuring Paul Hertz, NASA's director of astrophysics, and William Sparks, an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

NASA announced last year that it intends to send a , equipped with a suite of scientific instruments, to circle Europa in the 2020s.

In 2012, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope "observed water vapor above the of Europa," suggesting water plumes may be erupting from the moon, the space agency said.

If those plumes are confirmed, and if they are found to originate from a subsurface ocean, scientists hope the spacecraft could study their chemical makeup, revealing characteristics of the water without having to drill through ice.

Jupiter, nicknamed the king of the solar system, is surrounded by more than 50 moons.

Last year, data from the Hubble Space Telescope confirmed that Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede, has an underground ocean that contains more water than Earth's, broadening the hunt for places in the solar system where life might be able to exist.

In the case of Ganymede, aurorae—displays of light in the atmosphere—glimpsed by the Hubble Space Telescope allowed scientists to confirm the long-suspected subsurface saltwater there.

Because aurorae are controlled by a moon or planet's magnetic field, observing changes in their behavior can lead to better understanding of what exists under the surface.

The solar system's largest planet, Jupiter is the fifth from the Sun.

NASA's $1.1 billion Juno spacecraft successfully slipped into orbit around the planet in July on a 20-month mission to learn more about how the gas giant formed, and to probe the origins of the solar system.

Explore further: Hubble observations suggest underground ocean on Jupiter's largest moon Ganymede

Related Stories

Hubble captures vivid auroras in Jupiter's atmosphere

June 30, 2016

Astronomers are using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras—stunning light shows in a planet's atmosphere—on the poles of the largest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter. This observation programme is supported ...

How long does it take to get to Jupiter?

April 7, 2016

We're always talking about Pluto, or Saturn or Mars. But nobody ever seems to talk about Jupiter any more. Why is that? I mean, it's the largest planet in the solar system. 318 times the mass of the Earth has got to count ...

Recommended for you

Dust storms on Titan spotted for the first time

September 25, 2018

Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft has revealed what appear to be giant dust storms in equatorial regions of Saturn's moon Titan. The discovery, described in a paper published on Sept. 24 in Nature Geoscience, makes Titan ...

A new classification scheme for exoplanet sizes

September 24, 2018

There are about 4433 exoplanets in the latest catalogs. Their radii have generally been measured by knowing the radius of their host star and then closely fitting the lightcurves as the planet transits across the face of ...

First to red planet will become Martians: Canada astronaut

September 22, 2018

Astronauts traveling through space on the long trip to Mars will not have the usual backup from mission control on Earth and will need to think of themselves as Martians to survive, Canada's most famous spaceman half-jokingly ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 24, 2016
It would be interesting to fly through the plumes and catch some organisms.
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 25, 2016
They should send ground penetrating nukes to these places, set them off and analyze the vapour. It would be much cheaper and simpler than a drilling expedition. They have no idea how thick the ice is, if they'll land on ice.
1.7 / 5 (6) Sep 25, 2016
Oh, my. Did rrander really say that?

Yeah, let's destroy it like we are doing to the Earth. When they are gone, we will all be rich.
5 / 5 (3) Sep 26, 2016
Don't miss the the teleconference today 2 pm EDT for the eastern coast, 18:00 UTC for everybody.
5 / 5 (2) Sep 26, 2016
NASA conference on Europa latest observing campaign with HST. It is right now follow this link and click on the upstream window.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.