Old data reveal 'plumes' on ocean world that could host life
Tehran (KNA) - Although Jupiter's icy moon Europa was discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610, astronomers are still uncovering the secrets beneath its frozen crust. And it's fitting that the latest surprise has been found hidden in 21-year-old data from NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter in 1997.
Europa has been a high priority for scientists because, as an ice-covered moon with a subsurface salty liquid ocean, it has been identified as one of the ideal spots for hosting life in our solar system.
A new study detailing findings of plumes on Europa was published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, in conjunction with a NASA news conference at its headquarters in Washington.
The question of whether plumes of water vapor and icy materials erupt on Europa has circulated for decades.
During its closest flyby of Europa in 1997, less than 93 miles above the surface, the Galileo craft collected signatures of changes in Europa's magnetic field that the scientists didn't understand, said Margaret Kivelson, study author and professor emerita of space physics at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Kivelson was the principal investigator for Galileo's magnetometer and helped make the discovery of the subsurface ocean on Europa. Kivelson and Xianzhe Jia, associate professor in the department of climate and space sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, decided to take a second look at those signatures.