NASA reveals a highly detailed image of the mysterious moon Europa

NASA reveals a highly detailed image of the mysterious moon Europa

Last week, September 29, the space probe JuneJune which normally flies over giant Jupiter, skimmed past Europa, one of its four Galilean moons. A little smaller than ours MoonMoonEurope is a world that greatly fascinates scientists, because under its thick ice blocksice blocks The ice likely hides a salty ocean, making it one of the most potentially habitable worlds in the world. Solar systemSolar systemwith Enceladus, a satellite of Saturn.

As a reminder (see also article below), it had been 22 years since a space probe had visited Europa so closely. The images were taken with his Junocam camera, with a resolutionresolution reaching a kilometer pixelpixel, up to 352 kilometers from its surface. Today the POTPOT surprise us with a photo in a superior resolution of 256 to 340 meters per pixel only! And this was not captured with the usual Junocam, but with the ship’s guidance camera, the SRU (Stellar Reference Unit). The photo is in black and white, but that shouldn’t detract from the wealth of detail and information that can be found there.

The SRU is a star-referenced navigational instrument and was designed to be bass sensitive. lightslights. The mission team hoped that during this OverviewOverview unprecedented, opens theeyeeye in Europe. The probe was 412 kilometers above a little-known region when the picture was taken. This region was then partially submerged in night, or rather in a gloomgloombecause she shone with the light of the SunSun reflected by Jupiter. A light from Jupiter.

An intriguing image of the surface of Europa

The image covers a space that extends over 150 kilometers wide and 200 high. What is striking at first glance are all these scratches that could remind us of the Nazca lines, but the comparison stops there, because they are of natural origin on Jupiter’s satellite. There are simple and thin lines, others that are wider and finally, a large number of parallel double lines that cross each other. Scientists indicate that the latter are reliefs, lines of parallel ridges, witnesses of ice tectonics. This strange world is far from static and fixed.

Another curiosity of this photo, the darker circular spots. These are still visible traces of the impact of meteoritesmeteorites. These craters will gradually disappear, erased by regular revival on Europa’s surface.

Animation created from images collected by Junocam during the space probe’s flyby of Europa. © NASA, JPL-Caltech and Gerald Eichstädt (image processing)

But the most intriguing features are those dark dots visible at the top of the image, around the parallel line, and also the ones that intersect at the top right and near the center, towards the right arm. Two black dots appear there in the middle of the fairly wide footprints a few tens of kilometers from the crater. NASA explains that they measure approximately 67 and 37 kilometers in diameter and are “possibly related to something that rises from below the surface through eruptions”. “These features are very intriguing.said Heidi Becker, a researcher on the SRU team. Understanding how they were formed and how they are connected to European history tells us about the internal and external processes that shape European history. CortexCortex of ice”.

Subject to follow. Either way, the researchers are just beginning to mine all the information collected by the probe. “All of the spacecraft’s science instruments collected data both during the Europa flyby and when Juno flew past Jupiter’s poles 7.5 hours later.”NASA wrote in its press release. A summary, without a doubt, with many surprises to come.

NASA and ESA want to search for life on Europa, a moon of Jupiter, with a lander

Next year, Juno will pay a close visit to the highly volcanic memeanother large satellite of Jupiter.

article of Xavier DemeersmannXavier Demeersmann published on September 30, 2022

The Juno space probe, which is studying Jupiter, has made the closest flyby of Europa, the sixth largest moon in the Solar System, for 22 years. The first images of its icy surface arrive. This is only the third time in history that a ship has skimmed the Galilean satellite less than 500 kilometers from its surface.

It had been 22 years since the surface of Europa had been seen so closely. And as a bonus, some images sent back will have the best resolution (one kilometer per pixel) ever acquired for this moon of Jupiter, NASA announced. The images and data collected by the Juno spacecraft keep coming in and several enthusiasts have already started processing the photos taken by the Junocam, the mission’s camera.

The Juno probe focuses mainly on Jupiter with the aim of deciphering the mysteries that it hides from us, but sometimes its orbitorbit be modified to fly over the largest moons of the gas giantgas giantGalilean satellites.

Europa, a potentially habitable moon

Europe is of particular interest to astronomersastronomers because surveys strongly suggest the existence of a salty global ocean beneath its thick ice crust. Everything indicates, study after study, that this moon of 3,000 kilometers in diameter (4 times smaller than Earth) is potentially habitable. There are still no certainties, but the conditions are met. For this reason, and to deepen the knowledge of its structure, its atmosphereatmosphere and its activity, a space probe will be entirely dedicated to it. Named Europa Clipper, it will leave Earth in 2024 for a six-year journey to its target, more than 600 million kilometers away.

Beautiful details of the surface of Europa

On Thursday, September 29, 2022, Juno brushed past Europa up to 352 kilometers above its surface in the region called Annwn, near theEcuadorEcuador. On the border between day and night, the terminatorterminator, the projected shadows highlight, so to speak, the reliefs of this ice crust. A bark that can also be compared to the bark, with its cracks and roughness. We are far from being a polished scoop of ice cream. It’s moving around a lot inside the Galilean moon, as evidenced by the many cracks that run across its surface. Impact craters are also forming. cicatrizationcicatrization because internal activity causes a regular resurgence of the satellite. There is a kind of ice tectonics that scientists intend to better understand and map thanks to this flyby of Juno, waiting for those of Europa Clipper. In addition to possible lakes trapped in the ice closer to the surface, and the water seeps into space.

Hubble brings evidence of persistent water vapor in a European hemisphere

“The science team will compare the full set of Juno images with images from previous missions, looking to see if Europa’s surface features have changed over the past two decades.Candy Hansen of the Juno team explained in the NASA press release. JunoCam images will populate the current geological map, replacing existing low-resolution coverage of the area.”.

We have the first images of this exceptional flyby of Europa, the second of a Galilean moon since the mission was extended (the previous one was the moon Ganymede), but Juno has also collected valuable radiometric data that “will provide new details about how Europa’s ice structure varies beneath its crust”reveals NASA. All of this is eagerly awaited. Similarly, we hope to get a closer look at the Io volcano, of which two Juno flybys are planned for 2023 and 2024. This looks very promising.

Find the images taken by the Juno probe’s Junocam and processed by citizens in its gallery dedicated to “image processing”.

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