Scientists Confirm Water Vapor Above the Surface of Europa – Futurism

A team led by researchers out of NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has confirmed traces of water vapor above the surface of Jupiters icy moon Europa.

And thats a big deal as the tiny space rock is one of the highest priority targets in NASAs search for extraterrestrial life, according to the agency.

While scientists have not yet detected liquid water directly, weve found the next best thing: water in vapor form, lead researcher and NASA planetary scientist Lucas Paganini said in a NASA statement.

According toa paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, the NASA team discovered enough water vapor being released from Europa to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool within minutes.

But while that sounds like a lot, it was only just enough to be detected from Earth.

Out of 17 observations by the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, which uses a spectrograph to detect the chemical compositions of other planets atmospheres by scanning the infrared light they release or absorb, the scientists only spotted water vapor in one.

We suggest that the outgassing of water vapour on Europa occurs at lower levels than previously estimated, with only rare localized events of stronger activity, Paganini and his team wrote in the paper.

For many years, scientists have suspected that theres water on Europas surface, and several observations appear to back up that suspicion.

More than two decades ago, NASAs Galileo spacecraft found evidence of an electrically conductive fluid on the moons surface. Then, a 2018 analysis of the data found evidence of massive plumes of liquid. Data previously collected by NASAs Hubble Space Telescope supported the existence of the plumes.

We performed diligent safety checks to remove possible contaminants in ground-based observations, Goddard planetary scientist Avi Mandell said of the water vapor discovery in the statement. But, eventually, well have to get closer to Europa to see whats really going on.

A mission to do just that is already lined up.

NASAs upcoming Europa Clipper mission will get a much closer look at the icy moons surface as soon as 2023. The spacecraft will feature a suite of cameras, spectrometers, and a radar to investigate the thickness of Europas icy shell during 45 flybys and perhaps yield further insights into the water vapor above the moons surface while its there.

READ MORE: NASA Scientists Confirm Water Vapor on Europa [NASA]

More on Europa: NASA is Sending a Probe to Jupiters Icy Moon to Look for Life

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Scientists Confirm Water Vapor Above the Surface of Europa - Futurism

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