Water found on Jupiter moon

November 17th, 2011 - 3:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 17 (IANS) NASA’s Galileo spacecraft has found evidence of water beneath the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa, researchers said.

The data suggest there is significant exchange between Europa’s icy shell and the ocean beneath, they added.

This information could bolster arguments that Europa’s global subsurface ocean represents a potential habitat for life elsewhere in our solar system, Xinhua reported, quoting NASA.

Europa, which is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon, is believed to have a large ocean of salty water deep beneath its frozen crust.

The Galileo spacecraft, launched by the space shuttle Atlantis in 1989, studied Jupiter, which is the largest planet in the solar system, and some of its many moons.

Pictures sent by Galileo revealed cracks and jumbled ice on Jupiter’s surface. Seeking to understand how such topography evolved in a place with such dim sunlight, scientists believe that the answer lies in similar processes on Earth.

Europa’s ice shell is about 10 km thick and within it are giant pockets of water, lying at depths as shallow as three kilometers. Warm water from these sub-surface lakes wells up in plumes, causing the ice to become brittle, crack and collapse.

“Now, we see evidence that it’s a thick ice shell that can mix vigorously and new evidence for giant shallow lakes. That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable,” said Britney Schmidt, lead author of the study and fellow at the Institute for Geophysics, University of Texas, Austin.

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