Water plumes and clay-type minerals discovered on Jupiter’s ocean moon Europa

NASA and the European Space Agency have made several startling discoveries about the icy Jovian moon Europa. Credit: NASA/ESA
NASA and the European Space Agency have made several startling discoveries about the icy Jovian moon Europa. Credit: NASA/ESA

Europa has intrigued people for decades, ever since the first evidence was found that this small icy moon of Jupiter harbours a subsurface ocean. Additional information about the actual conditions below the surface have been difficult to obtain, since this ocean is covered by a global crust of ice perhaps ten of kilometres thick in places. But perseverance pays off, and now in just this past week there are two new significant discoveries being talked about – evidence from the Hubble Space Telescope for water vapour plumesannounced on Thursdayerupting from Europa’s surface similar to those on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and the first detection of clay-type minerals on the surface, announced on Wednesday.

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Curiosity rover confirms ancient Martian lake

View from Yellowknife Bay in Gale crater, looking west-northwest. This area of sedimentary deposits is now known to be the former bottom of a freshwater lake. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
View from Yellowknife Bay in Gale crater, looking west-northwest. This area of sedimentary deposits is now known to be the former bottom of a freshwater lake. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Some exciting new results from the Curiosity rover mission on Mars were announced yesterday at this year’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Basically, as previously suspected, Curiosity landed in an ancient lakebed inside Gale crater, and those habitable conditions apparently lasted for a longer time than previously thought.

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