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What a new research about Jupiter’s moon Europa means

  • Published
    22nd Apr, 2022

A new study found that on one of Jupiter’s moons Europa, a prime candidate for life in the solar system, there might be an abundance of water pockets beneath formations called double ridges.


About Europa

  • Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon and its diameter is about one-quarter that of the Earth.
  • Oxygen atmosphere: Even though Europa has a very thin oxygen atmosphere, it is considered one of the most promising places in the solar system to find present-day environments that are suitable for life beyond the Earth.
  • Water: It is also believed that underneath Europa’s icy surface the amount of water is twice that on Earth.
  • NASA notes that scientists believe Europa’s ice shell is 15-25 km thick and is floating on an ocean, which is estimated to be between 60-150 km deep.
  • Interestingly, while its diameter is less than the Earth’s, Europa probably contains twice the amount of the water in all of the Earth’s oceans.

NASA’s Europa Clipper

  • NASA is expected to launch its Europa Clipper in 2024.
  • The module will orbit Jupiter and conduct multiple close flybys to Europa to gather data on the moon’s atmosphere, surface and its interior.

Implications of the recent findings:

  • The central implication is that the shallow water pockets beneath the double ridge, like surfaces seen on the Greenland ice sheet on Earth and those seen on Europa’s ice shell, increase the potential habitability of the moon.
  • The ice shell, which is potentially miles thick, has been a difficult prospect for scientists to sample.
  • But according to the new evidence gathered by the Stanford team, the ice shell is believed to be less of a barrier and more of a dynamic system.
  • This means that the ice shell does not behave like an inert block of ice, but rather undergoes a variety of geological and hydrological processes.

Double ridge Feature:

  • Double ridge is the most common type of ridge on Europa: the term “ridge” usually refers to double ridge.
  • A ridge pair with a continuous, V-shaped medial trough whose depth is less than the height of the ridges.
  • They are 100s m wide on average, though in some cases are up to less than 5 km across.
  • Double ridges are the most ubiquitous morphology on Europa and run almost linearly with generally uniform morphological characteristics for up to more than 1,000 km.

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