Published yesterday in a paper for Nature Astronomy, a team of scientists led by Dr. Xianzhe Jia unveiled strong evidence that one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, is venting water into space in the form of plumes.
This surprising result comes from anomalies uncovered in decades-old data from NASA’s Galileo mission. Not only does this discovery showcase the importance of past archival data, but it also has critical implications in the search for extraterrestrial life.
For years, Europa has been a promising candidate to host alien life due to its potential habitability. It is the 6th largest moon in the Solar System and boasts a thin, tenuous oxygen atmosphere as well as a magnetic field: important components of a habitable environment.
Europa’s most compelling feature, however, lies beneath the miles of ice that form its surface: a massive salt-water ocean. Due to Europa’s non-circular orbit and its resonance with the nearby moons Io and Ganymede, the gravitational forces it experiences change throughout its orbit.