NASA has confirmed what appears to be the presence water vapour plumes emanating from the surface of one of Jupiter’s Galilean moons
The space agency had teased a major announcement regarding Europa was imminent via their Twitter account, with their findings later revealed during a teleconference.
As reported by Wired it has long been suspected liquid water may lie beneath the icy moon’s surface, but it was not until the Hubble Space Telescope investigated that suspicions could be verified to any degree.
— NASA (@NASA) September 21, 2016
William Sparks, astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said during the conference:
Observations indicate a global, saline, liquid material engulfs Europa. We may be able to explore this without having to drill through oceans of ice.
Sparks continued but stopped short of guaranteeing the presence of plumes due to the ‘limitations’ of the Hubble Space Telescope:
We are really working at the limits of Hubble’s unique capabilities…If plumes exist, this is an exciting finding as it would enable us to access it, without drilling through ice.
We do not claim to have proven the existence of plumes, but rather contributed to evidence.
Data from the telescope had suggested the venting of water vapour from Europa back in 2013, which led scientists to believe the moon could be a potential candidate for habitation as a result.
Nasa’s Lorenz Roth was reported at the time as saying:
This means that future investigations can directly investigate the chemical makeup of Europa’s potentially habitable environment without drilling through layers of ice…and that is tremendously exciting.Advertisement
So basically the latest data has lent further weight to earlier observations which should lead to deeper investigation of Jupiter and Europa.
No doubt disappointing alien enthusiasts the world over, the news has not confirmed life beyond Earth, but it certainly has increased the potential of such a discovery in the future.