Remember back on June 26, 2013 when I wrote an article titled ‘Forget Mars – Jupiter’s Moon?’ referring to Europa. In it I discussed Objective Europa – and the planned mission. Allow me to recap before I build more data on top of it.
The idea was for a one way mission to Europa, Jupiter’s moon. One way because ten minutes above the surface of the ice that covers this strange world and now you have six months to live. Six months and Earth using current methods of transportation is 10 years. 5 years if all you wanted was a fly-by, but to enter orbit and land, ten. Of course if you used some advanced nuclear rockets the trip might be cut down to 3 years or less. If you only have six months to live, you won’t even be half way back to Earth so you might as well spend your time exploring. Of course once your ship drills down through the ice and you go below it dropping a communications cable behind you, now, you are shielded from the radiation. Don’t worry, by the time we have completed Lunar missions & colonies and Mars colonies and have already sent robotic probes to Europa, NASA should have completed work on the deflector shield or magnetic shield or whatever you choose to call it. Quite apropos, really, as the idea has its origin in the Magnetosphere of Jupiter. Now the colony proposed will be formed beneath the ice either in an air bubble under the ice and above the sea or a colony will take its place at the bottom of the ocean. The obvious question is do we know there is water below the ocean? If we do that means water to drink or break it down and oxygen to breath. That would be good!
That is why I am writing. This is some sort of addendum that explains that before the existence of water below the ice was a hypothesis – now, it is a fact. Sort of.
Thanks to the Hubble, we are aware of large plumes of vapor that spewed out, erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa. Scientists from NASA & the ESA were able to spot several geysers originating from the moon’s South Pole. The 200 km/125 mile high plumes were detected using the Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) which detected faint ultraviolet light from an aurora at Europa’s South Pole. The aurora is created as the moon crosses Jupiter’s intense magnetic field. During this time the particles reach such high speeds that they split the water molecules and allowing the resulting oxygen and hydrogen ions to reveal themselves to Hubble. While it has long been suspected that Europa had water beneath its icy crust, it’s good to get confirmation!
Of course this assumes that the plumes are the subsurface liquid.
These plumes occur depending on Europa’s orbital position around Jupiter. As Europa undergoes tidal flexing due to gravitational forces squeezing and releasing their hold on Europa, vents open and close and water spews forward out into space. These same gravitational forces from Jupiter explain the striations in the ice formed as well.
Certainly if they are not the subsurface liquid, it speaks of the existence of water none-the-less.
So what is one to do with this information?
This world underlines the why we have robotic missions in the first place. The amount of knowledge gained from these mini-science labs before any human ever set’s foot is awesome. AND in this case, necessary-given the radiation involved.
I for one would love to see what lies beneath the ice of Europa. Given the timeframe needed to gt there, maybe we should send a probe now while we have other things hold our attention such as the Moon, a manned mission to Mars….