A future Europa mission may need to contend with deadly jagged ice spikes littering the surface.
Jupiter's icy moon is a strong contender for a future space mission due to the possibility that it hides a vast ocean of liquid water. Sending a spacecraft to Europa and landing on the surface is a difficult proposition in itself, but now scientists have pointed out that huge spikes of ice known as 'penitentes' may pose a deadly hazard to any probe attempting to touch down. Similar ice spikes can be found on Earth in high altitude regions such as the Andes.
Penitentes form when irregularities in the snow are enhanced by the energy from the Sun, creating deep furrows. The debate is on over whether similar conditions could exist on Europa. "The Sun is always coming down straight from above on Europa," said Dr Daniel Hobley. "From our point of view, if the surface of Europa is subliming - if it is being sculpted by the sunlight - it will form these features."
"Jupiter's icy moon Europa is a prime target for future space missions as it harbours a buried ocean that could have the right conditions for life."
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Source: BBC News
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