Friday, 19 October, 2018

Why Jupiter’s Europa moon could be straight out of Game of Thrones

The moon is on the list for possible space exploration. Pic NASA Image The moon is on the list for possible space exploration. Pic NASA
Elijah Vega | 11 October, 2018, 02:28

The presence of the penitentes - some reaching 15m into the sky - could "pose a hazard to a future lander on Europa", the researchers write in the new study.

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

We haven't really seen any detailed images of Europa previously, so we can't say; but since these scientists claim that there's rock-hard ice there, it has to be there through a mechanism.

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

"The presence of sharp, blade-like structures towering to nearly 50 feet high would make any potential landing mission to Europa extremely precarious".

The shards, called penitentes, are sharp-edged blades, with spikes, that point toward the midday sun.

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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", explains the study. Actually traveling to Europa is still little more than a dream, but when we eventually make it happen we may need to grapple with something unexpected: a surface covered in brutal blades of ice.

In a new study published in Nature Geoscience, researchers studying Europa reveal that conditions on the planet might support a phenomenon that occurs on Earth which turns ice into large spiky blades. Its surface is mainly ice and it has the thermal conditions required for ice to sublime without melting.

As we all might know, Jupiter's moon is called Europa and was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei.

"Beneath the icy surface of Europa is perhaps the most promising place to look for present-day environments suitable for life", NASA said.

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.

This image shows two views of Europa. Dr Moore is a co-investigator on Europa Clipper.

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