First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

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jserraglio
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First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

Post by jserraglio » Mon May 14, 2018 12:21 pm

NYT — Europa is an ice-encrusted moon of Jupiter with a global ocean flowing underneath its surface. NASA is planning a mission soon that will look for signs of possible life there.
Now, a new finding from old data makes that mission even more tantalizing.
In recent years, the Hubble Space Telescope has spotted what looks like plumes, likely of water vapor, reaching more than 100 miles above the surface.
The plumes, if they exist, could contain molecules that hint at whether Europa possesses the building blocks of life.
In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists are reporting a belated discovery that Galileo, an earlier NASA spacecraft that studied Jupiter, appears to have flown through one of the Europa plumes more than 20 years ago. And that occurred close to one of four regions where Hubble has observed plumes.
“That’s too many coincidences just to dismiss as ‘There’s nothing there’ or ‘We don’t understand the data,’” said Robert T. Pappalardo, the project scientist for NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission, which may launch as soon as 2022. “It sure seems like there’s some phenomenon, and plumes seem consistent.”
Galileo, which launched in 1989, arrived at Jupiter in 1995 and spent almost eight years examining the planet and its moons until its mission ended with a swan dive into Jupiter in 2003.
During a flyby of Europa on Dec. 16, 1997, instruments on Galileo measured a swing in the magnetic field and a jump in the density of electrons. At the time, scientists noted the unusual readings, but they did not have an explanation.
Then, in 2005, another spacecraft passing by another moon around another planet made a startling observation.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft — which completed its mission last September — found geysers of ice crystals erupting out of Enceladus, a small moon of Saturn. Enceladus, it turns out, also has an ocean of liquid water under its ice.
That spurred renewed curiosity about Europa and whether it too might burp bits of its ocean into space. The Hubble first recorded signs of possible plumes in 2012, then again in 2014 and 2016. But at other times, Hubble has looked and seen nothing. That suggests the plumes are sporadic.
Last year, Melissa A. McGrath, a senior scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. who was not involved in the new study, took a look at some radio experiments conducted by Galileo which examined how signals bent as Europa passed between Earth and the spacecraft. The experiments showed Europa possesses an atmosphere.
Some of the flybys indicated a higher density of particles near the surface — possible plumes. Before heading to a meeting of scientists working on the Clipper mission, a thought occurred to Dr. McGrath: “Gee, I really should check to see if any of them line up with any of the claimed plume detections,” from Hubble.
One of them indeed did.
Margaret G. Kivelson, an emeritus professor of space physics at U.C.L.A. who was the principal investigator for Galileo’s magnetometer, was at Dr. McGrath’s talk. She remembered the odd magnetic readings from 1997.
For years, she had been thinking of taking another look at the data for signs of plumes, but, “there are always other things to do,” she said.
Then she did.
“With the Hubble data in hand,” Dr. Kivelson said, “we had an idea of how big a plume might be reasonable. That we could translate into how long it would take Galileo to move across a plume that had been proposed.”
The three-minute-long magnetic anomaly seemed to fit with the apparent size of the Hubble plume.
Next, they turned to William S. Kurth, an astronomer at the University of Iowa who headed Galileo’s plasma wave experiment, which listened to the radio waves generated as charged particles bobbed back and forth along magnetic fields around Jupiter and its moons. That instrument also noticed a burst of radio waves during the flyby — and it occurred right in the middle of the magnetic anomaly.
The final piece was a computer model of a plume by Xianzhe Jia, a professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan, that created the same effects on the magnetic field and the plasma waves.
“It all seemed to hang together,” Dr. Kivelson said.
The location was close, though not exactly the same, as the site Dr. McGrath reported. But Dr. McGrath said the new paper was convincing. “They did a really good job of the modeling and made a strong case,” she said.
Also convinced is John Culberson, a Texas congressman who is chairman of the House subcommittee that sets NASA’s budget. Mr. Culberson has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Clipper mission, repeatedly adding more money to the project than NASA officials requested. He has also been pushing for a follow-up mission that would land on Europa and drill into the ice.The
At a subcommittee meeting last week, Mr. Culberson handed out the article, which was not yet available for public discussion, to his colleagues. “It’s worth noting that the scientific journal Nature Astronomy just reported that the Galileo mission, back in 1997, flew through a water plume on Europa,” he said. “So, the ocean of Europa is venting directly into outer space.”
The scientists were amused as they were not allowed to talk publicly about their findings yet. “That was really funny, because we’ve been so careful,” Dr. Kivelson said. “And all of sudden, Representative Culberson is throwing around the paper on the table. Very funny.”
Astronomers will certainly be taking more looks at Europa with the Hubble, trying to better understand how often the plumes erupt.
Dr. Pappalardo said it might be possible to adjust the trajectory of Europa Clipper so that at least one of the more than 40 planned flybys pass over a potential plume site. But that would have to be weighed against other science goals and how much fuel would be needed to nudge the spacecraft’s trajectory.
“Obviously this is a place we would want to suss out with the Europa Clipper mission in the future,” he said. “I think this is going to make for a lively debate at our next science mission meeting.”
A European Space Agency spacecraft, called Juice or Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, will also fly by Europa, as well as two other Jovian satellites, Ganymede and Callisto. It could also launch as soon as 2022.

jbuck919
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Re: First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

Post by jbuck919 » Fri May 18, 2018 6:32 pm

It is my understanding that Civitates Foederatae Americae is under investigation as well.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
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Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

Post by jserraglio » Sat May 19, 2018 5:08 pm

. . . and, except at 40°N, 83°W, found sorely wanting.

jbuck919
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Re: First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

Post by jbuck919 » Sun May 20, 2018 6:03 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 5:08 pm
. . . and, except at 40°N, 83°W, found sorely wanting.
Cleveland, I suppose. I agree that it is a bit of an unknown gem and unfairly tarred with the brush of the decay of the old urban industrial north, but forgive me if I don't pack my bags to take advantage of its depressed housing prices. It has dubious politics and as a swing state was responsible for a horror story of Greek tragedian proportions. As you know, Ohio has produced more presidents (eight) than any other state, and with the possible exception of Garfield, who was assassinated too early for an assessment, they ranged from stupefying mediocrity to utter failure. (The string of them was broken by a Democrat ironically named Cleveland even though he was from New York, and he was not much better.)

I have a number of acquaintances who never give/gave a thought to relocating to a red or red-trending state. Then (I don't necessarily mean you) they throw up their hands in horror when state politics take the turn toward Hell that was perfectly predictable. What New York and Massachusetts are capable of is bad enough.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
Posts: 4786
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 7:06 am
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

Post by jserraglio » Sun May 20, 2018 7:36 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 6:03 pm
Ohio has produced more presidents ... than any other state, and . . . they ranged from stupefying mediocrity to utter failure.
There was once a fascist from Queens
Beantowners tried to foist on Bowling Green
Now Ohioans, they didn't want him
Once they saw he'd demagogued 'em
And told him to plop his ass down in Kings

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
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Re: First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

Post by jbuck919 » Mon May 21, 2018 7:43 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 7:36 pm
jbuck919 wrote:
Sun May 20, 2018 6:03 pm
Ohio has produced more presidents ... than any other state, and . . . they ranged from stupefying mediocrity to utter failure.
There was once a fascist from Queens
Beantowners tried to foist on Bowling Green
Now Ohioans, they didn't want him
Once they saw he'd demagogued 'em
And told him to plop his ass down in Kings
Goody for those fine folks that they've seen
What exactly must always have been:
'Twould though truly be fair
To put forward that their
Lack of prescience was grossly obscene.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
Posts: 4786
Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 7:06 am
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

Post by jserraglio » Tue May 22, 2018 3:53 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 7:43 pm
'Twould . . . truly be fair
Wormwood.
Last edited by jserraglio on Tue May 22, 2018 5:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

lennygoran
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Re: First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

Post by lennygoran » Tue May 22, 2018 5:40 am

Guys do be careful-I just read this:

Surgeons General Warning: the following blog entry contains lethal amounts of Vogon poetry. PROCEED WITH CAUTION. Lethal amounts of Vogon poetry have been known to cause death in laboratory mice.

Regards, Len :)

jserraglio
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Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 7:06 am
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

Post by jserraglio » Tue May 22, 2018 5:57 am

Poetry.

It takes dominion everywhere.
Its jar is gray and bear.
It does not give of bird or hare,
Like nothing else in Delaware.
Last edited by jserraglio on Wed May 23, 2018 4:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

lennygoran
Posts: 14052
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
Location: new york city

Re: First Enceladus, now Europa, being investigated as suited for life

Post by lennygoran » Tue May 22, 2018 6:20 am

jserraglio wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 5:57 am
Poetry.

It takes dominion everywhere.
Its jar is gray and bear.
It does not give of bird or hare,
Like nothing else in Delaware.
Definitely doesn't take dominion over Delaware-come on, the Wilmington Opera house, Winterthur Garden! Regards, Len

Okay so I just learned what vogon poetry is! :lol:

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