Hubble Finds Evidence of Persistent Water Vapor in One Hemisphere of Europa

This photograph of the Jovian moon Europa was taken in June 1997 at a range of 776,700 miles by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. Slightly smaller than Earth’s moon, Europa has a very smooth surface and the solid ice crust has the appearance of a cracked eggshell. The interior has a global ocean with more water than found on Earth. It could possibly harbor life as we know it. Hubble Space Telescope observations of Europa have revealed the presence of persistent water vapor in its very tenuous atmosphere. Hubble observations, spanning 1999 to 2015, find that water vapor is constantly being replenished throughout one hemisphere of the moon. This is a different finding from Hubble’s 2013 observations that found localized water vapor from geysers venting from its subsurface ocean. This water vapor comes from a different process entirely. Sunlight causes the surface ice to sublimate, transitioning directly into gas. This color composite Galileo view combines violet, green, and infrared images. The view of the moon is shown in natural color (left) and in enhanced color designed to bring out subtle color differences in the surface (right). The bright white and bluish part of Europa’s surface is composed mostly of water ice, with very few non-ice materials. Long, dark lines are fractures in the crust, some of which are more than 1,850 miles long. The Galileo mission ended on Sept. 21, 2003, when the spacecraft was intentionally commanded to dive into Jupiter’s atmosphere, where it was destroyed. However, to this day scientists continue to study the data it collected. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California managed the Galileo mission for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. JPL is an operating division of California Institute of Technology (Caltech). This image and other images and data received from Galileo are posted on the Galileo mission home page. Background information and educational context are also available for the images. (Credits: NASA, NASA-JPL, University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observations of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa have revealed the presence of persistent water vapor – but, mysteriously, only in one hemisphere.

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NASA’s Juno Mission Expands Into the Future

This view from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft shows two storms merging. The two white ovals seen within the orange-colored band left of center are anticyclonic storms – that is, storms that rotate counterclockwise. The image was taken on Dec. 26, 2019. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Tanya Oleksuik, © CC BY)

The spacecraft, which has been gathering data on the gas giant since July 2016, will become an explorer of the full Jovian system – Jupiter and its rings and moons.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has authorized a mission extension for its Juno spacecraft exploring Jupiter. The agency’s most distant planetary orbiter will now continue its investigation of the solar system’s largest planet through September 2025, or until the spacecraft’s end of life. This expansion tasks Juno with becoming an explorer of the full Jovian system – Jupiter and its rings and moons – with multiple rendezvous planned for three of Jupiter’s most intriguing Galilean moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Io.

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NASA Extends Juno & InSight Planetary Missions

Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As NASA prepares to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, the agency’s quest to seek answers about our solar system and beyond continues to inform those efforts and generate new discoveries. The agency has extended the missions of two spacecraft, following an external review of their scientific productivity.

The missions — Juno and InSight — have each increased our understanding of our solar system, as well as spurred new sets of diverse questions. 

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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Europe’s JUICE Spacecraft Begins to Take Shape

Unpacking of JUICE primary structure in Lampoldshausen. (Credits: Airbus, ArianeGroup)

LAMPOLDSHAUSEN, Germany (ESA PR) — The assembly of the flight model of ESA’s JUICE spacecraft began in September, with the delivery of the spacecraft’s primary structure, followed by integration of the propulsion system that will enable the mission to reach and study Jupiter and its moons.

On 2 September, the main skeleton of JUICE was delivered to the Arianegroup facility in Lampoldshausen, Germany.

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Arianespace, ESA Sign Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer Launch Contract

This new artist’s impression of ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer depicts the final spacecraft design, the construction of which is being overseen by Airbus Defence and Space. (Credit: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Jupiter: NASA/ESA/J. Nichols (University of Leicester); Ganymede: NASA/JPL; Io: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona; Callisto and Europa: NASA/JPL/DLR)

PARIS, 17 June 2019 (ESA PR) — The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, Juice, will ride into space on an Ariane launch vehicle, Arianespace and ESA confirmed today at the International Paris Air Show.

Juice is the first large-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015–2025 programme. Its mission is devoted to complete a unique tour of the Jupiter system.

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Roscosmos, ESA Discuss Ganymede Mission, Joint Rocket Development

Roscosmos and ESA have agreed to pursue missions aimed at returning soil samples from the south pole of the moon and landing a spacecraft on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, according to a Roscosmos press statement.

The decision was made during a Dec. 19 meeting between Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin and ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain.  The space agency chiefs also discussed the potential involvement of Russia in the U.S.-European ExoMars program and collaboration in developing new launch vehicles.

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NASA, ESA Consider Joint Mission to Search for Life on Jupiter’s Moons

Hoping for Europa
Astrobiology Magazine

“There is an ocean beneath the icy crust of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Strange creatures could be swimming in these alien waters, but so far no missions have been sent there to investigate this possibility…”

“The Europa-Jupiter System Mission (EJSM) calls for one spacecraft to orbit Europa and another to orbit Ganymede, another large moon of Jupiter that also may have a liquid ocean locked beneath an icy outer layer.

“EJSM would be a joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency, with ESA in charge of the Ganymede orbiter and NASA directing the Europa orbiter. Working together, the two spacecraft also would be able to conduct limited studies of the large moons Io and Callisto, as well as the planet Jupiter.”











Mars Program Gets an “A”; NASA Slashes Funding

After years of brilliant success studying the Red Planet, scientists and engineers working on NASA’s Mars exploration are getting their just desserts: deep cutbacks in their programs for the next four years.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin announced last week that he was refocusing the agency’s exploration budget on the outer planets. RedOrbit.com reports that NASA is requesting around $343 million annually for Mars exploration for 2009-12, just over half the $620 million it had estimated just a year ago.

Griffin said the change was spurred by a recent National Research Council report which gave the agency an “A” for its Mars work and a “D” for its exploration of the outer worlds.

“After Mars Science Lab – the current planetary sciences flagship – we are now planning in earnest for an outer planets flagship to Europa, Titan or Ganymede,” Griffin told attendees at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston last week.

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