Jupiter’s moon blasts water, indicates potential for life
Artwork depicting a towering geyser of water erupting from the south pole of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Image by NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWR
The Hubble Space Telescope captured images of water vapor shooting from the southern pole of Europa, Jupiter’s ice-covered moon, astronomers wrote in the Science journal.
The discovery, if confirmed, will help make the case that this particular moon has the right conditions for life, planetary scientist Kurt Retherford told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.
“We’ve only seen this at one location right now, so to try to infer that there’s a global effect as a result of this is a little difficult at this time,” Retherford said.
Scientists speculate that the water vapor came from cracks in Europa’s southern polar ice because of gravitational stress.
“When Europa is close to Jupiter, it gets stressed and the poles get squished and the cracks close up. Then, as it moves further away from Jupiter, it becomes un-squished, the pole moves outward and that’s when the cracks open,” planetary scientist Francis Nimmo told Reuters.