NASA Hubble Finds Evidence Of Water Vapor Over Europa But Only In One Hemisphere

NASA astronomers, after an in-depth analysis of the Hubble telescope’s archival images, have discovered the persistent presence of water vapor on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. However, scientists explain that the steam is mysteriously only found in the Moon’s hemisphere. Europa is known to have a vast ocean beneath its icy surface with more water than Earth, and this raises the possibility that the Moon could provide habitable conditions for life.

Steam in the hemisphere raises questions

According to NASA, Hubble Traces of water vapor are only found in the European hemisphere, the part of the moon that is always in the opposite direction of its motion along its orbit. The agency reports that previous observations of water vapor, such as those seen in Hubble images from 2013, were linked to plumes erupting through the ice. However, new Hubble observations, from 1999 to 2015, reveal that water vapor is constantly being replenished in the Moon’s hemisphere.

The results emerge from technology developed by Lorenz Roth of the Sweden-based Royal Institute of Technology, Space and Plasma Physics, which recently detected water vapor in the atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. Talking about the findings, Roth said: “Observations of water vapor on Ganymede, at the back of Europa, improve our understanding of the moon’s cold atmosphere. However, the discovery of an abundance of settled water on Europa is a bit more surprising than ever. on Ganymede because Europa’s surface temperature is lower than Ganymede.”

Europa’s water ice as a result of sublimation

NASA has shown that Europa reflects more sunlight than Ganymede, resulting in temperatures 60 degrees Fahrenheit cooler over Europa than Ganymede. Interestingly, the results revealed that water ice in Europe sublimes, i.e. it changes directly from solid to vapor without a liquid phase as happens on Ganymede even at a daytime temperature of -260 degrees Fahrenheit.

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The findings, according to NASA, reportedly came to light after Ruth investigated the Hubble archive dataset, selecting European ultraviolet observations from 1999, 2012, 2014, and 2015 when the moon was in different orbital positions. In addition, he determined the abundance of oxygen in Europe’s atmosphere using the Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrometer (STIS) and by interpreting the strength of the emission at different wavelengths, NASA said.

(Image: NASA)

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