Space mission warning: the sharp ice on Jupiter's moon Europa

Rodiano Bonacci
Ottobre 11, 2018

Being one of the most promising planet moons that could host life, the study's findings may not prove to be good news.

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. This process leaves behind distinctive, blade-like formations called penitentes.

A team led by scientists at the University of Cardiff predicts that shards of ice up to 50ft tall could be scattered across Europa's surface.

We have penitentes here on Earth, but they're only found in high-altitude regions near the tropics, such as the Andes, and they range in size from about 1m to 5m.

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 new paper published yesterday (Oct. 8) in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers likened the environment at Europa to high altitudes on Earth.

The study suggests that similar conditions exist on Europa, making it possible for the moon's surface to feature jagged terrain.

If Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had landed on Europa instead of our moon, that "small step" would have been significantly more treacherous.

Excitingly, the Europa Clipper mission may be a forerunner to a landing mission on the Jovian moon, in which a probe would drill through the icy surface and plunge into the dark ocean beneath.

"We hope that studies like ours will help the engineers to develop innovative ways of delivering landers safely on Europa's surface so that we can find out even more about this fascinating place, and potentially look for signs of extraterrestrial life". "Although available images of Europa have insufficient resolution to detect surface roughness at the multi-meter scale, radar and thermal data are consistent with our interpretation". NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft is scheduled to launch at some point between 2022 and 2025.

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