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NASA Space

Moon of Jupiter Prime Candidate For Alien Life After Water Blast Found (theguardian.com) 133

A NASA probe that explored Jupiter's moon Europa flew through a giant plume of water vapour that erupted from the icy surface and reached a hundred miles high, according to a fresh analysis of the spacecraft's data. An anonymous reader shares a The Guardian report: The discovery has cemented the view among some scientists that the Jovian moon, one of four first spotted by the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610, is the most promising place in the solar system to hunt for alien life. If such geysers are common on Europa, NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) missions that are already in the pipeline could fly through and look for signs of life in the brine, which comes from a vast subsurface ocean containing twice as much water as all the oceans on Earth.

NASA's Galileo spacecraft spent eight years in orbit around Jupiter and made its closest pass over Europa, a moon about the size of our own, on 16 December 1997. As the probe dropped beneath an altitude of 250 miles, its sensors twitched with unexpected signals that scientists were unable to explain at the time. Now, in a new study, the researchers describe how they went back to the Galileo data after grainy images beamed home from the Hubble space telescope in 2016 showed what appeared to be plumes of water blasting from Europa's surface.

Moon of Jupiter Prime Candidate For Alien Life After Water Blast Found

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  • by powerlord ( 28156 ) on Tuesday May 15, 2018 @02:48PM (#56616240) Journal

    âoeAll these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there.â

    • The big news about this discovery is that we would have to attempt a risky landing to check for life there.

      • I don't think we would, if the water and ice is blasted high enough up a probe might be able to fly through the cloud to collect samples. I have no idea what the charged particles hitting that material will do to it though, maybe there wouldn't be any frozen life chunks to see any more. Then again, maybe we could identify Europan life without attempting a landing.

      • Just tell rich people that the eggs of the ultra-rare Europan Sturgeon in the subsurface oceans are a delicacy so rare and delectable that Earth caviar is plebeian trash they should be embarassed to be seen eating. Then bam, forget a simple landing, we'll have the funding to drill down right into that thing.
    • ÃoeAll these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there.Ã

      The aliens use Safari, huh?

      • or Chrome.

        Need to see if they could be using Firefox too. I'd assume even aliens wouldn't use IE, so I won't bother testing that, but Edge is still a possibility.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      âoeAll these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there.â

      Aren't they planning on submersible probes to send to Europa? If they fins a crack or fissure in the ice and go straight into the water you could argue that we technically havent landed there. I wonder if the aliens care about semantics?

      • âoeAll these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there.â

        Aren't they planning on submersible probes to send to Europa? If they fins a crack or fissure in the ice and go straight into the water you could argue that we technically havent landed there. I wonder if the aliens care about semantics?

        We'll find out...

  • I'm not saying that's not what it is, nor am I contesting that a water plume could plausible explain the data that they had received from their probe, but unless they got an actual picture of what the probe could see around it at the time, I don't think it's reasonable to assume anything conclusive.

    It may have been caused by some unexpected effect on the jovian planet itself that they weren't prepared to look for.

    • Are you suggesting a photo taken in the black of space is more accurate than a sensor that analyses the contents of what it passes through? I highly doubt a photo would add anything to this. You could perhaps question the accuracy of the sensors, but the fact that they detected water (something we've long suspected on Europa), not ammonia, or liquid nitrogen or some other unexpected substance; helps me believe that the sensor accurately identified what it passed though.

      • I don't think you actually read the stories. The sensors did not "detect water". They sensed some anomalies in magnetic field and plasma density which defied any obvious explanation at the time (in 1997). These scientists did some modeling and showed that those signatures can be explained by the presence of a water plume. That is certainly interesting and supports the conclusion that Galileo may have passed through or very near a water plume, however it is very different from saying that "the sensors detect
        • Hubble imaged a plume several years ago, NASA has been confident that's it's happening but the new data suggests a previous probe actually flew through one of the plumes and no one realized it at the time.

          https://www.washingtonpost.com... [washingtonpost.com]

          • Hubble imaged a plume several years ago

            From that article:

            We do not claim to have proven the existence of plumes

            Hubble imaged something which might have been a plume.

            • Yes, that's why they do science and look for things like gravitational shifts and plasma changes that would indicate a probe flew through one.

              Maybe you've heard of this thing called science, it's where they look for other evidence and rarely are thing unequivocal.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mark-t ( 151149 )

        Well we know that Europa has water.... we've known it for some time. What we don't know, or at least what I can infer that we don't know from the article, is that the probe *ACTUALLY* flew through a plume of water... only that a water plume would be one plausible explanation for the data that they had received.

        If the probe had *detected* the water it was flying through, even that would be something... but from what I was able to take from the article, no such actual detection was made... they are only i

        • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

          they are only inferring that it flew through a plume from the data that they have. Now maybe this inference is right, but absent any actual direct detection of it, it's still just an assumption.

          You appear to be awfully invested in putting words and conclusions into the researchers' report that were not written, then criticizing what was not written in order to declare that the researchers have made a critical error.

          Now let's look at the words that you have actually used:

          Inference: "a conclusion reached on

    • While what you're saying is generally true, often times things that happen in space are just our best guess for several obvious reasons. In this case, they found that if they modeled a specific jet of water from a specific location at a specific temperature, it would produce the exact same sensor readings on the probe. So, no, it's not concrete evidence, like a lot of phenomena in space, it's circumstantial evidence which happens to precisely fit into the measurements which were actually made at the time.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        I would think that you'd need to establish that there was something on the probe afterwards that could reliably be identified as water, or that a chemical analysis of whatever it was flying through at the time was water vapor.

        Given that the probe (to the best of my understanding) isn't designed for atmospheric exploration, I expect it's unlikely to have the instrumentation necessary to evaluate this, so I wouldn't want to conclude anything, because there's far more about the universe that we don't know

        • It's not exactly blind guesswork, we're not blind. We have sensors. I don't know which ones the probe carried, but I do know that they showed signals which the team in 1997 did not have an explanation for and they considered them anomalous. It now turns out that if we assume a certain water jet with certain properties, it explains the sensor measurements. That's not blind guesswork, it's educated guesswork.

          Yes, we will never know what the Galileo probe flew through in 1997. But it's not exactly a stret

          • by mark-t ( 151149 )

            Yes, we will never know what the Galileo probe flew through in 1997. But it's not exactly a stretch to say that we can see plumes shooting from the surface, we've long assumed that there is an ocean twice as large as all the oceans on Earth, so, therefore, maybe it flew through a water jet. Happens to fit the data we do have also. Yeah, it could have been a cloud of alien pee. But it was probably a water jet.

            I trust you can see the progression from ignorance to probable conclusion, even without providing an

            • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

              And it's one thing to say that there is evidence of water plumes, but it's quite another to say that it actually flew through one while it was going off.

              Which they didn't say. You said that - it's a strawman.

              Sure it's possible, but in the end, they don't actually have any direct evidence to support it beyond that it fits the data that they did happen to measure. If they had been taking environmental measurements at the time that said it was flying through water vapor, sure.... but they don't They start by

              • by mark-t ( 151149 )
                I'm suggesting that if they weren't actually taking measurements at the time that could substantiate such a conclusion (specfifically either photographic evidence, or else an actual direct analysis of whatever environment it was flying through at the time the anomaly was detected), it seems vastly more likely that it's because of something they haven't thought of at all.
                • What data do you think they do or do not have? Have you seen the actual data? Because they're telling us that they did in fact detect something at the time, and just didn't know what it was. That sure sounds to me like the sensors have some sort of ability to measure the immediate environment around the probe. Is your argument just based on the assumption of what sensors they have, or more specifically, what sensors they don't have? I mean, this thing was designed to spend over 7 years measuring variou

                  • by mark-t ( 151149 )

                    If in fact they had detected the plume by sensors, then the article would have said that... but they did not. They described what the sensors *did* detect, and suggested that a water plume would be consistent with what they detected, despite not having any direct evidence of such a plume.

                    FTA:

                    As it hurtled past [Europa], instruments onboard the probe detected a brief but dramatic twist in the magnetic field and a sudden, rapid increase in the density of plasma, or ionised gas, the spacecraft was flying t

                    • despite not having any direct evidence of such a plume.

                      I'm not sure where you're getting that from. The direct evidence is the whole point.

                      Nowhere in there does it say or suggest that the sensors detected a water plume that it was flying through.

                      You don't think so? It does say this:

                      rapid increase in the density of plasma, or ionised gas

                      Since you're on top of Jovian science, I'll leave it you to explain what happens to water molecules in the electric and magnetic fields 120 miles or so above Europa. I'll give you a hint in case you haven't been keeping up with the mailing lists: it doesn't stay as molecular water. See if you can deduce what it turns into.

                      the statement that it supposedly actually flew through a water plume seems to be scientifically dishonest

                      Fantastic, thanks for your opinion.

                      Just out of curiosity, since

                    • by mark-t ( 151149 )

                      You don't think so? It does say this:

                      rapid increase in the density of plasma, or ionised gas

                      Yeah... and even a rank amateur astronomer is going to know that when you are talking about such things in space, you are generally referring to hydrogen unless explicitly indicated otherwise.

                      Besides, water vapor is a *compound*, not an elemental substance, so how the heck do you think that would even work?

                    • Yes, notice how I said molecular water, not elemental water.

                    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
                      Nowhere in that story did it say that the sensors detected water, however.,.. it said it detected plasma and ionized gas. It said nothing about the elemental (or molecular) composition of anything that had detected. In fact, if it had detected water vapor, there is absolutely no reason that this story would not have explicitly said so, rather than dance around it by saying that the measurements were merely consistent with having flown through such a plume.
                    • Uh, yeah, I agree with all of that. They detected a certain ionized gas and had no explanation for it, until they modeled what would happen to a water plume with certain characteristics. Similar to the plumes that Hubble is said to have observed. If one of those plumes occurred with certain characteristics at a certain time, then it would result in the ionized gas which they measured. I'm not sure where the confusion is at this point.

                    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
                      Because the ionized gas wasn't water. In fact, if were anything other than hydrogen, the article likely would have said so because hydrogen is so abundant in the universe that it is implicitly considered the default for such phenomena.
                    • Yeah I'm still not sure where the confusion is. I mean, if someone farts in a room before you walk in and you smell it, you know what happened without needing to have actually measured gas being released from his anus, right? We're newcomers to space travel, but I imagine that those who have been doing it for a while would fly through a cloud like this and their first reaction would be "this thing is sending up jets of water." This is the first experience that we're getting, it's not like Earth or the mo

                    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
                      In fact, if it were so outwardly obvious that it had flown through a water plume as what you suggest, they would have realized it in 1997, and not just now.
                    • It only became obvious because of the recent pictures that show the plumes actually happen.

                    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
                      I don't refute that plumes happen... but in fact, there's no real direct evidence that the probe actually flew through such a plume. It matches the data, but considering they didn't actually detect any water vapor at the time the probe flew throught it, this as likely to be a coincidence as not.
                    • We're still going around in the circle, huh? OK.

                      1) They do have direct evidence. The probe measured it.
                      2) There would never be water vapor where the probe was. Demanding water vapor evidence as proof is stupid when it would not be in that location in the first place. What was there was the ionized gas that was evidence of the water plume leaving Europa. It was measured. It is direct evidence.

                    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
                      I didn't say it wasn't evidence of a plume happening on Europa... that, at least, would make sense. What I said it wasn't evidence of was that, as the article says, it flew *THROUGH* such a plume.
                    • Oh, I didn't realize you were getting that pedantic. It flew through whatever the plume turned into at that distance. Happy?

                    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
                      Or it didn't fly through a plume at all, any more than you can say that the ISS regularly flies through hurricanes.
                • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

                  it seems vastly more likely that it's because of something they haven't thought of at all.

                  No. You've merely conclusively assumed that it is something else without evidence and without even being able to suggest what it is.

                  You don't get to hide behind words like "more likely" when you won't give those words any effect when used by the original researchers. It works both ways.

                  • by mark-t ( 151149 )

                    I think it's more likely to be something else, yes... but that's only because I realize that there's more in the universe that we don't know than what we do know, and in absence of any direct observation of a water plume that it was flying through (actually detecting water vapour, explicitly, in particular), while I don't question that flying through a water plume is a definite possibility, I wouldn't consider it to be a particularly likely one just because I don't have any alternative explanation that is

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      I'm not saying that's not what it is, nor am I contesting that a water plume could plausible explain the data that they had received from their probe, but unless they got an actual picture of what the probe could see around it at the time, I don't think it's reasonable to assume anything conclusive.

      They did not assume that it was a water plume -- they hypothesized that it was a water plume and then tested that hypothesis. "We went back and looked at [the anomalous data] more carefully and found that they w

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        My objection is to conclude that it is something like a plume of water when they didn't actually, you know, detect any friggen plume of water. It just so happens that a plume of water fits the data they have.

        Given that there's vastly more about the universe that we don't know than we do, it seems more likely to me that when they didn't even directly detect the thing, it's more than likely caused by some other phenomenon that they just weren't prepared to look for at the time.

        As it sits, their claim l

        • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

          My objection is to conclude that it is something like a plume of water when they didn't actually, you know, detect any friggen plume of water. It just so happens that a plume of water fits the data they have.

          Of course, if you'd actually read the article you'd have noticed that the Hubble Space Telescope has repeatedly detected plumes of what appeared to be water-ice, so it's not as if the hypothesis was pulled out of nowhere.

          As it sits, their claim looks no different than if they had just said they didn't k

    • It may have been caused by some unexpected effect on the jovian planet itself that they weren't prepared to look for.

      A planetary ejaculation?

  • Maybe the water plumes are actually the spouts of giant space whales. Futurama was right, the whalers just went to the wrong moon!
  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Tuesday May 15, 2018 @04:33PM (#56616930) Journal
    Imagine this: plume of water vapor erupts from deep within Europa, hundreds of miles high. Most of that never leaves the vicinity of Jupiter, but a little of it manages to escape, freezes, and floats around the solar system for a while.. eventually coming into the gravitational influence of a young Earth. It makes it through the atmosphere, eventually finding it's way into Earths' oceans, carrying the seeds of primitive life..
    • by slew ( 2918 )

      Imagine this: plume of water vapor erupts from deep within Europa, hundreds of miles high. Most of that never leaves the vicinity of Jupiter, but a little of it manages to escape, freezes, and floats around the solar system for a while.. eventually coming into the gravitational influence of a young Earth. It makes it through the atmosphere, eventually finding it's way into Earths' oceans, carrying the seeds of primitive life..

      On the other hand, people have also been imagining we be Martians [npr.org]...

      Of course, maybe the Martians came from Europa... ;^)

      Well Wallas are Beltas... Pashang fong!.

      • There's certainly been theories like that. I remember one where it was a meteor or an asteroid, carrying single-celled life to Earth. Also, haven't there been experiments on the ISS showing some microscopic life (Amoebas? Bacteria? I forget..) surviving in vacuum, going dormant?
    • imagine this: a plume of semen erupts from deep within your father, hundreds of millimeters high. Most of that never leaves the vicinity of the vagina, but a little of it manages to escape, and floats around the fallopian tubes for a while, eventually coming into the membrane influence of a newly released ovum. It makes its way through the ovum's contents, eventually finding its way into the nucleus, carrying the DNA of a 7 digit ID slashdotter.

      Nah, never could happen.

    • by Ken_g6 ( 775014 )

      I'd even go further. This makes panspermia [wikipedia.org] seem possible. What if life originated on an icy world like this? What if it normally spreads through being frozen in small ice blocks from jets like these?

      • No scientist I know of thinks that panspermia is impossible - just (1) very unlikely, and (2), not a useful contribution to the question of the origin of life.

        With an origin of life on Earth then we've got a reasonable handle on the conditions under which it happened, the materials available, and we can perform relevant, falsifiable experiments to test our theses. If we then move our origin of life to some other planet somewhere else in the universe, we've got almost no idea of plausible conditions of chem

    • by cyn1c77 ( 928549 )

      You have just re-invented the established concept of panspermia!

      Pieces of Mars blown into space from (large) meteorite impacts on Mars are also considered candidates for this type of genesis. Geologists believe the have actually found meteorites on Earth that originated from Mars.

  • As though it were talkinh about a moon of "Jupiter Prime".

    Come to think of it, I guess it is. You could stick "Prime" after almost any proper noun in the news, and it'll mean the same thing, only it'll sound like it's happening in a sci-fi multiverse.

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