Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Research | By Francis Brooks

Aliens found? Scientists discover fresh evidence of life on Jupiter moon Europa

Aliens found? Scientists discover fresh evidence of life on Jupiter moon Europa

"The result that emerged, with a simulated plume, was a match to the magnetic field and plasma signatures the team pulled from the Galileo data", NASA pointed out in the news release.

Clues hidden in data from NASA's Galileo spacecraft-which explored the Jupiter system between 1995 and 2003-suggest very strongly that the icy moon Europa is venting water into space, scientists report today in Nature Astronomy.

It's also possible-and perhaps more likely-that any plumes come from a lake or some other reservoir trapped in the ice.

For the new study, experts measured variations in the moon's magnetic field and plasma waves, based on data obtained during Galileo's close flyby, and found they were "consistent" with the spacecraft crossing a plume.

The proofs of the existence of water plumes on Europa, which are emerging from the surface of the moon, have been gathering for a number of years. The information collected by the spacecraft during its orbit around the Jupiter brought to light that it could have flown through an atmosphere with a plume of moisture gushing out from the cracks formed on Europa's surface.

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Scientists examined Galileo's data by Melissa McGrath of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

Xianzhe Jia, a space physicist at the University of MI, created new 3D computer models to look at the old Galileo data with insight gained from Cassini's observations of Enceladus and the Hubble data. "One of the locations mentioned rang a bell". "We can stare with really good telescopes in Earth orbit as much as we want, but to really answer the question, you have to go there and do the measurements".

Ever since the Hubble Space Telescope detected Europa's plumes, scientists have been working under the assumption that the planned Europa Clipper spacecraft could collect more data on their contents.

Back in 1997 the Galileo Jupiter probe skimmed the watery moon of Europa and now it appears it got a facefull from a water plume 1,000km (621 miles) wide. Presently, Jia and his group trust, its way was serendipitous. When Jia and his team sifted through the observations of plasma and magnetic wave fluctuations Galileo picked up on Europa, Jia and his team were able to confirm that, yes, the geysers did, in fact, exist. The finding also bolsters hypotheses that posit parts of Europa's crust are far thinner and more fractured than previously believed-conditions that may allow life-sustaining energy as well as exploratory robots easier entry into the moon's lightless abyss. The new study, coupled with 2012 Hubble pictures, is regarded as "powerful and corroborating service for plumes", NASA said. As Galileo flew near the moon, its instruments detected significant, sudden changes in the magnetic field and charged particles around Europa-as if the spacecraft was passing through a tenuous cloud of material rising from below. "These are no longer uncertain blips on a faraway image", Robert Pappalardo, Europa Clipper project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in the statement. Another mission, Esa's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or Juice, is expected to launch around the same time and perform flybys of Europa and two other Jovian moons, Ganymede and Callisto. Now that we have this unearthed Galileo data, scientists can better plot the trajectory of the spacecraft to ensure we gather more data on these plumes, and Europa's subsurface ocean as a result. The mission team is gearing up now to look at potential orbital paths, and the new research will play into those discussions. So far, signs suggest that Europa features all the basic ingredients of life-and the plumes could save us the trouble of getting below the icy crust to find it.

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