An artist’s impression showing the interaction of the Galileo spacecraft with Jupiter’s magnetic field and electrically charged particles, both of which indicated the probe plowed through a plume of water vapor spewing from the frozen surface of the moon Europa during a 1997 flyby. Image: NASA
Researchers sifting through data collected by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft during a close flyby of Jupiter’s moon Europa in 1997 have found evidence the probe flew through a water vapour plume spewing from the fractured surface of the icy world. The data are consistent with earlier indications of a plume in pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
“Today’s announcement of yet more evidence of plumes jetting out of Europa are an outstanding leap forward in our search for life and habitable environments in the solar system,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s science chief, said after a 5 May news briefing.
“There were hints of plumes in the past from the Hubble Space Telescope and today’s finding … gives us further evidence to sink our scientific teeth into.”
In both cases, the plumes appeared to originate at or near a known “hot spot” on the surface of Europa and likely represent, many believe, salty water making its ...