Jupiter’s Europa glows in the dark, providing clues as to what lies beneath the icy surface – RT World News


Research from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) found that Jupiter’s icy moon Europa glows in the dark and could literally shed light on the chemical makeup of its vast oceans and the possibility of sustaining life.

Jupiter radiates its satellites night and day with a constant bombardment of electrons and other particles.

The salty compounds contained in the surface of the lunar ice react to radiation in a different way, emitting their particular glow: green, blue or white with different degrees of intensity depending on the composition of the particular irradiated compound.

A moon that “ shines ” in the night sky doesn’t exactly sound that remarkable because our moon keeps reflecting sunlight at night, so we’re used to the sight, but the mechanism behind Europa’s glow is very different, as even its dark side, facing away from the sun, emits light.

While at first glance it might seem like a curious but unimportant oddity about a moon in our solar system, the discovery may in fact provide clues to the ocean below and whether it can actually support life, as some in the scientific community suspect.

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The JPL scientists used a spectrometer to compare the wavelengths of light emitted by the moon to obtain information on the specific compounds within the ice responsible for each particular hue.

This type of analysis is typically done during the day, but the latest results show what Europe would look like in the dark.

“We were able to predict that this nocturnal glare of ice could provide further information on the composition of Europa’s surface. The way in which this composition varies could give us clues as to whether Europe offers conditions suitable for life “,said JPL’s Murthy Gudipati, lead author

NASA scientists have long deduced that Europa’s frozen surface is likely composed of a mixture of ice and salts that we would be familiar with here on Earth, such as magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) and sodium chloride (table salt). ).

The team then built a unique instrument called Ice Chamber for Europe’s High-Energy Electron and Radiation Environment Testing (ICE-HEART) to create a model of the frozen moon’s surface which they then blasted with a high-energy electron beam to see. how the organic material underneath could handle intense bursts of radiation.

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Whether there really is anything swimming under the ice remains to be seen, but an upcoming mission could provide unexpected assistance in this regard.

NASA’s Europa Clipper mission will conduct more close passes of the shining moon in the mid-2020s, and members of the mission team are already carefully examining the findings of the JPL researchers to determine what level of overlap there is between their work.

While Clipper isn’t specifically a life tracking mission, it may end up providing invaluable reconnaissance data that improves our search for life in the universe.

Clipper could allow researchers to compare their findings from the model here on Earth with more accurate readings taken near the moon some 628.3 million kilometers away.

Spacecraft measurements could provide far more insight into the moon’s composition and the possibility of life in its cold waters.

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