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Hubble Discovers Water Plumes Over Europa 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the thar-she-blows dept.
astroengine writes "Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have found plumes of water vapor shooting off the southern pole of Europa, an ice-covered moon of Jupiter that is believed to have an underground ocean. If confirmed — so far the plumes have only been spotted once — the finding could have implications for the moon's suitability for life and help explain why its surface appears relatively young and crater-free. "The plumes are incredibly exciting, if they are there. They're bringing up material from in the ocean, perhaps there's organic material that will be laying on the surface of the south pole. Those are the things that we want to know about," James Green, head of NASA's planetary science programs, told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco on Thursday."
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Hubble Discovers Water Plumes Over Europa

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  • Re:old news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amaurea (2900163) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:00PM (#45676315) Homepage

    We've known about the plumes for a long time:
    http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/LPSC99/pdf/1603.pdf [usra.edu]

    This is just direct confirmation of what we already knew about.

    That paper talks about the possility that one might observe plumes, as one of several possible explanations for the terrain features seen on Europa. Actually observing such plumes is something else entirely.

    It's pretty clear Europa probably has some form of life under the ice. The odds are definitely in it's favor. It's just a matter of confirming it, just like these plumes. The really exciting bit will be if it's multicellular or even fish like animals. I really hope I live long enough to see it.

    How is that clear? On what do you base the claim that the odds are so good that "it's just a matter of confirming it"? I don't think you would find anybody working in that field willing to make that bold claims.

  • Re:old news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:13PM (#45676383)

    It's pretty clear Europa probably has some form of life under the ice. The odds are definitely in it's favor.

    I don't see how you can get from plumes to life so glibly.
    Plumes can be strictly physical effects of tidal activity.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by green is the enemy (3021751) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:51PM (#45676609)
    The radiation environment around Europa most likely breaks apart any complex molecules that came from the ocean. The best possibility is a lander that would dig into the regolith. Unfortunately, looks like the Juno mission will not help even with locating landing spots on Europa. Its camera is too wide-angle.

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