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The ‘Treacherous Terrain’ of Jupiter’s Moon Europa

11 October 2018

That could be bad news for incoming spacecraft, the researchers pointed out, like the possible lander component of the Europa Clipper mission scheduledfor the late 2020s. Jupiter's moon Europa is one of the most tantalizing. Depths under the ice on Europa is life.

Jupiter's moon Europa has always been a major target for exploration because it harbors a salty water ocean beneath its icy crust.

In order to explore the always been attracting the attention of scholars the moons of Jupiter, NASA is preparing to launch a mission to Europa Lander.

Penitentes are composed of snow and ice, and they arise through sublimation - a chemical process in which ice turns directly into water vapour without melting into a liquid beforehand. These formations on Earth are known as penitentes.

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"On Earth, the sublimation of massive ice deposits at equatorial latitudes under cold and dry conditions in the absence of any liquid melt leads to the formation of spiked and bladed textures eroded into the surface of the ice", the study explains. Those conditions include a surface covered in ice, ideal temperatures, other environmental factors to support sublimation, and a consistent angle of incoming sunlight.

Europa however has the flawless conditions necessary for penitentes to form more uniformly - its surface is dominated by ice; it has the thermal conditions needed for ice to sublime without melting; and there is very little variation in the angle in which the sun shines on the surface.

In a latest study, researchers report they have found evidence of huge, jagged "ice spikes" on the surface of Europa. Unlike on Hoth, where life thrives on the icy surface, life on Europa would thrive in the ocean beneath its frigid surface - but evidence for it might be just beyond the reach of our experiments.

You might not think it when you peer out at an ice-covered lake in the dead of winter, but perfectly flat, smooth ice is actually somewhat rare. Dr Moore is a co-investigator on Europa Clipper. It should also give scientists a much better idea of what the surface looks like, and if it sees a bed of icy spikes, NASA will have to figure out how to deal with them for future missions. It is believed a landing mission could follow soon after.

The ‘Treacherous Terrain’ of Jupiter’s Moon Europa