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Quandary photo of the week: NASA sees a ‘Platypus’ bound on Jupiter’s moon Europa

NASA Space Technology

NASA Space Technology Europa

Europa’s wintry shell appears to be absorbing.(Image credit rating: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI)

What it is: Europa, Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon.

Where it is: About 417,000 miles (671,000 kilometers) from Jupiter and 500 million miles (805 million km) from the solar.

When it was once shared: Might presumably presumably additionally honest 19, 2024.

Why it be so particular: A exiguous bit smaller than Earth’s moonEuropa is extra like a planet. It has a magnetic self-disciplinea tenuous oxygen ambiance and a liquid iron core. It also has an wintry shell 11 miles (18 km) thick that hides a salty ocean under.

Does that salty ocean bubble up thru the ice? Yes, suggests a newly published image of Europa returned to Earth by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016.

NASA Space Technology A search for of Europa captured by NASA's Galileo spacecraft in 2000

A search for of Europa captured by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 2000 (Image credit rating: ASA/JPL/College of Arizona)

Juno’s ultra-beautiful Stellar Reference Unit instrument snapped an image throughout a close flyby on September 29, 2022, when the spacecraft handed internal correct 220 miles (355 km) of Europa’s ice shell. It was once one in all the first excessive-resolution pictures of Europa since NASA’s Galileo spacecraft handed by in 2000.

Related: NASA unearths ‘glass-soft lake of cooling lava’ on ground of Jupiter’s moon Io

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The dusky and white image — taken of Europa’s evening facet when it was once lit handiest with gentle reflected by Jupiter — reveals a operate nicknamed “the Platypus” (in a yellow box). Measuring about 23 miles by 42 miles (37 km by 67 km), this “chaos terrain” contains hummocks, ridges, ice blocks and dusky reddish-brown arena cloth. It is the youngest operate in the establish imaged — and, scientists suspect, it be the assign Europa’s ice shell permits pockets of saltwater from the moon’s subterranean ocean to pool.

About 31 miles (50 km) above “The Platypus” is a double ridge running east-west (blue box) with imaginable stains spherical it. It is thought these stains is inclined to be deposits from plumes of saltwater rising up to the ground from Europa’s ocean.

Juno’s close flyby also saw four seen-gentle pictures of Europa taken by JunoCam, which notify that the wintry crusts at the north and south poles of the moon need to now not the assign they once had been. This implies that Europa’s wintry shell is free-floating, absorbing relating to the moon.

Juno’s mission will result in 2025, nevertheless two extra missions are lunge for Europa. NASA’s Europa Clipper will open later this year and near in 2030. Within the interim, the European Quandary Agency‘s slower Juice (Jupiter Chilly Moons Explorer) launched in 2023 and could honest near in 2031 to tour three of Jupiter’s moons: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

Jamie Carter is a contract journalist and recurring Dwell Science contributor basically based mostly in Cardiff, U.K. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Inexperienced persons and lectures on astronomy and the natural world. Jamie frequently writes for Quandary.com, TechRadar.com, Forbes Science, BBC Wildlife magazine and Scientific American, and plenty of others. He edits WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com.


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