Scientists Discover Surprise About Jupiter's Icy Moon

Scientists Discover Surprise About Jupiter's Icy Moon”

A new research shows that the moon literally lights up in the dark.

Most of the observations using a spectrometer on a moon-like Europa are taken using sunlight that is reflected on the moon's dayside, however, the latest results illuminate what Europa would look like in the dark. They pointed a spectrometer at it and each type of ice had a different spectrum. Experiments conducted with Ice-Heart mimicked conditions on Europa and showed how various ice-and-salt compositions generated distinct glows. The difference between our moon and Jupiter's moon is that our moon shines with sunlight. Putting different pieces of the Europa puzzle together through Clipper will help us discover how Europa works as a whole, from its molten core to its frozen face.

"If Europa weren't under this radiation, it would look the way our moon looks to us-dark on the shadowed side", Gudipati adds.

"Different salty compounds react differently to the radiation and emit their own unique glimmer", NASA said in a statement on Monday. Beneath its icy surface, scientists think there's a massive, hidden ocean. "Searching for different glows across different surface features would be fascinating".

"Owing to the unique radiation environment and rich geological and compositional diversity on its surface, the night-time ice glow occurring on Europa may be very unique and unlike any other phenomenon in our Solar System", the authors write in their paper.

"But because it's bombarded by the radiation from Jupiter, it glows in the dark". And we all just stared at it for a while and then said, 'This is new, right?

As well as seeing evidence of key chemical and physical changes in Europa's crust, Jupiter's radiation breaks water ice into oxygen and hydrogen, boosting the chances that oxygen filters down to the liquid ocean below - the researchers observed the ice visibly glowed. And while other gas-giant moons, such as Saturn's Enceladus, are also thought to have subsurface water, they don't have the intense radiation thought to create the necessary chemicals for life in Europa's ocean.

The intensity of the glow depends on the composition of the ice: the presence of sodium chloride and carbonate produced a fainter light, while epsomite produced a brighter light.

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The radiation caused the samples to glow.

They didn't expect to see variations in the glow itself tied to different ice compositions.

"But because it's bombarded by the radiation from Jupiter, it glows in the dark".

Set to launch in the mid-2020s, Europa Clipper will bring along nine instruments to observe the moon, including cameras and spectrometers. Niebur is also the program scientist assigned to NASA's upcoming Europa Clipper mission, a Europa-bound spacecraft that will launch sometime in the next decade.

"It's not often that you're in a lab and say, 'We might find this when we get there, '" Gudipati said.

Missions such as Europa Clipper help contribute to the field of astrobiology, the interdisciplinary research on the variables and conditions of distant worlds that could harbor life as we know it.

The new findings will be significant for future studies aiming to understand if Europa could host life. Planetary scientist Roger Clark of the Planetary Science Institute, who wasn't involved with the new study, tells Science News that some scientists interpret observations of Europa's surface as acidic, instead of or in addition to its saltiness.

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

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