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Space & Astronomy

Scientists have detected water vapor on Europa

By T.K. Randall
November 22, 2019 · Comment icon 8 comments

There is water on Europa, but could there also be life ? Image Credit: NASA
The water vapor from one of the Jovian moon's elusive plumes has been directly detected for the first time.
In recent years, observations of Europa using the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed hints of what appear to be plumes of water vapor erupting from its surface.

Now a team lead by NASA planetary scientist Lucas Paganini have, for the first time, detected the telltale signs of this elusive vapor using the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

The findings indicated that there was quite a lot of it too, enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool.

Paganini and his team believe that this vapor could be coming from either a large subterranean ocean or a reservoir of melted ice trapped inside Europa's icy exterior shell.
"Essential chemical elements (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur) and sources of energy, two of three requirements for life, are found all over the solar system.," he said.

"But the third - liquid water - is somewhat hard to find beyond Earth. While scientists have not yet detected liquid water directly, we've found the next best thing: water in vapor form."

It is the first time water has ever been directly detected above the surface of Jupiter's icy moon and the discovery adds to the growing body of evidence to suggest that Europa is home to a vast ocean.

Future robotic missions, including NASA's own upcoming Europa Clipper, should help to unravel the secrets of this enigmatic world and tell us more about what might lie beneath its surface.

Source: | Comments (8)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by ChrLzs 5 years ago
"all these worlds are yours..."   (if anyone doesn't get my flippant movie reference, try here..)
Comment icon #2 Posted by debra odem 5 years ago
Nov 18, 2019 CNN For the first time, scientists have discovered the presence of water vapor above the surface on Europa, Jupiter's icy moon first visited by one of the Voyager probes 40 years ago.
Comment icon #3 Posted by ExpandMyMind 5 years ago
If you want something to proper blow your mind, check out Liu Cixin's Dark Forest trilogy. It's not really related to your reference but I keep meaning to start a thread to spread the word. It makes every other sci fi I've experienced seem so small and insignificant by comparison 
Comment icon #4 Posted by SmartAZ 5 years ago
Scientists have detected water so many times in so many places that it's gettting to be boring. We still don't have any actual water.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 5 years ago
How is water vapour not, "actual water"? The key word in "water vapour" IS "water".
Comment icon #6 Posted by SmartAZ 5 years ago
Show me the water. They tend to say "water" when they find hydroxyl ions. That is not "water."
Comment icon #7 Posted by ChrLzs 5 years ago
Read the flippin' link.  It's NOT about hydroxyl ions, it's water vapour.  Gaseous H2O.  Not OH-. As you are clearly too lazy to do so, I'll quote, just so others won't be misled by your misinfo:    
Comment icon #8 Posted by Ozfactor 5 years ago
The headline for this article is NASA close to confirming alien life on Jupiter's moon Europa They must be confident where there is water there is life. In just a few short years, we may know if we’re not alone. Two probes are being sent to a mysterious moon bursting with the ingredients of life. And expectations are high we’ll find it. Once it was thought life could not exist without the sun’s warming rays. We were wrong. T... [More]

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