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NASA's Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa

Update Date: Dec 27, 2016 07:31 AM EST
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Many scientists believe that Jupiter's moon Europa is a frozen world that might harbor microbial life. NASA recently announced that they are planning to send a probe to examine the icy moon in 2020, letting the probe drill into Europa's surface.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has seen evidence of a water-vapor plume flowing from Europa's south polar region, claiming that the material coming from the ocean may go back onto the moon's icy surface. NASA aims to send a lander on Europa to find chemical evidence that could provide a proof that the moon can support life.

Ralph Lorenz, a planetary scientist, at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, explained that "the firing of the lander's thrusters to slow the probe's descent will be like hosing down the ground with ammonia, and this is a very inconvenient thing to do." Ammonia mixed in the landing includes nitrogen, a substance that could show the presence of life.

Lorenz told Space.com, "If you are interested in nitrogen as a prerequisite for life, then finding even traces of it at Europa is important, and so even a little thruster contamination matters a lot." He added that if the contamination were to happen, scientists will be having a difficult time to find out if nitrogen found at Europa was native or obtained from Earth.

NASA's main problem on the Europa mission is that the nature of Europa's terrain is unknown, which scientists believed that Europa's surface might be too rough and bumpy for the lander to move away from the landing site. Compared to the Mars rover, it has wheels and can take on the even Martian ground, but the Europa lander might not have the same ability.

Furthermore, scientists are already planning to equip the Europa Lander with the tools that can drill down the layer of an uncontaminated layer of Europan crust. Scientists claim that Europa has a huge ocean of liquid water under its icy crust and with such cold that's present in it, it simply means that Europa has the requirements present to support life. 

 

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