Latest Issue of Science News

4/18 Cover

News

Europa vents water, Hubble data suggest

Plumes from ice-covered oceans would increase likelihood of life-friendly conditions on moon of Jupiter

By
11:57am, December 12, 2013

BLUE MOON  Hydrogen atoms that could have originated in water molecules shooting up from an ocean buried by ice appear in blue, superposed on a photo of Europa.

Water vapor spews from jagged cracks near the south pole of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, according to a study published December 12 in Science. If confirmed, these geysers would allow astronomers to probe the moon’s watery and possibly life-supporting interior.

“It’s incredibly exciting,” says Britney Schmidt, a planetary scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “It blows your mind at what these worlds can do.”

Europa, Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon, has tantalized scientists since NASA’s Galileo mission in the 1990s. The probe beamed back photos of a fractured icy surface with few impact craters, suggesting the moon has active geology. Galileo also found strong evidence that the moon harbors a buried ocean heated by the alternating push and pull of Jupiter’s gravity.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.

More from this issue of Science News