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What is the News?
A team of researchers from Stanford University have said that one of Jupiter’s moons Europa, a prime candidate for life in the solar system, might have an abundance of water pockets beneath formations called double ridges.
What is Europa?
Europa is the sixth-largest moon in the solar system and Jupiter’s fourth-largest satellite. It was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei.
Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon and its diameter is about one-quarter that of the Earth. Europa’s surface is mostly solid water ice. It is crisscrossed by fractures.
Even though Europa has a very thin oxygen atmosphere, it is considered one of the most promising places in the solar system to find present-day environments that are suitable for life beyond the Earth.
It is also believed that underneath Europa’s icy surface the amount of water is twice that on Earth.
Future Missions to Europa
NASA is expected to launch its Europa Clipper in 2024. The module will orbit Jupiter and conduct multiple close flybys to Europa to gather data on the moon’s atmosphere, surface and its interior.
What did the researchers find about Europa?
The researchers have found that double ridges found on Europa’s surface are similar to those seen on Earth’s Greenland ice sheet.
Based on these findings, the researchers suggest that if a similar process is responsible for the formation of double ridges there, it could indicate that shallow liquid water is present over Europa’s ice shell at all times and in all places.
Note: Double ridges are symmetrical mountain-like structures running hundreds of kilometers in length. They are a common geographical feature found in Greenland.
Significance of these findings: The findings increase the potential habitability of Europa.
Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: What a new research about Jupiter’s moon Europa means” published in Indian Express on 23rd April 2022