The green oval highlights the plumes Hubble observed on Europa. The area also corresponds to a warm region on Europa’s surface. The map is based on observations by the Galileo spacecraft (Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI/USGS)
CARDIFF, UK (Cardiff University PR) — A location often earmarked as a potential habitat for extra-terrestrial life could prove to be a tricky place for spacecraft to land, new research has revealed.
A team led by scientists from Cardiff University has predicted that fields of sharp ice growing to almost 15 metres [49 feet] tall could be scattered across the equatorial regions of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
Previous space missions have already identified Europa as one of the likeliest destinations for harbouring life in our solar system, most notably because of the large seas of liquid water underneath its surface.
In a new study published today in Nature Geoscience scientists state that any potential landing mission may have to navigate hazardous obstacles known as ‘penitentes’ before touching down on Europa’s surface.
Penitentes are tall sharp-edged blades and spikes made of snow and ice that point towards the midday sun. They form through a process known as sublimation, which requires bright, sustained sunlight as well as cold, dry and ...