Jupiter’s moon, Europa has been long known for its spectacular water plumes. Nevertheless, recently, scientists have discovered new massive such geysers. The icy moon of Jupiter appears to feature huge plumes of water vapor than scientists previously thought. The new findings fuel astronomers’ belief that this fantastic phenomenon is real.
- The first time scientists discovered what they thought they might be water plumes was in the late 1990s.
- That area was spotted by NASA’s Galileo Jupiter probe.
- A new such geyser was uncovered in 2016, around the same area where Hubble spotted another one in 2014.
Back in February 2016, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has traced a 62-mile-high geyser near Europa’s equator. The announcement regarding this discovery was made on April 13. The new candidate plume appears to be located in the same area as another smaller geyser which was spotted by Hubble in March 2014. That location seems to be in the middle of a warm area of this moon’s surface which was identified by NASA’s Galileo Jupiter probe back in the late 1990s.
Scientists claim that these findings, even if they appear to be quite suggestive, they do not actually confirm the definitive existence of water plumes. William Sparks, the project team leader of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, stated on April 13, during a press conference that the findings do not explicitly prove with 100% chances that there is water on Europa, but at least they can be more optimistic about it.
Scientists believe that a massive liquid water ocean may lie underneath the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon, making this 1,900-mile-wide celestial object to be one of the best candidates at hosting alien life in our solar system. Several astrobiologists categorize Saturn and Europa’s water plumes and the subsurface ocean-containing Enceladus as being the top two candidates at hosting alien life.
Back in 2012, a different team of scientists has used Hubble and identified what seems to be a geyser at the south polar region of Jupiter’s moon. Astronomers have tried on separate occasions to confirm the truth of this phenomenon, but they could not find any evidence. Nevertheless, in 2014, Sparks together with his team have traced such a water plume near the equator of Europa.
The finding from March 2014 was announced in September 2016. Together with the discovery, they were both made by implementing the use of the ‘transit technique.’ When Europa passed in front of Jupiter, Hubble was able to spot that the geysers blocked some of the ultraviolet light which was emitted by Jupiter. Sparks stated that the fact that they discovered two different occurrences of water plumes cannot be a coincidence.
Image courtesy of: wikipedia