NASA unveils a very detailed image of the mysterious moon Europe

Last week, September 29, the space probe JunoJuno which usually flies over the giant Jupiter, was brushing past Europa, one of its four Galilean moons. A little smaller than our MoonMoonEurope is a world that greatly fascinates scientists, because under its thick pack icepack ice ice probably hides a salty ocean, making it one of the most potentially habitable worlds in the world. Solar systemSolar systemwith Enceladus, satellite of Saturn.

As a reminder (see also the article below), it had been 22 years since Europe had been visited by a space probe so closely. Images were taken with his Junocam camera, with a resolutionresolution reaching one kilometer per pixelpixel, up to 352 kilometers from its surface. Today the NasaNasa surprises us with a photo in a higher resolution of 256 to 340 meters per pixel only! And this was not captured with the usual Junocam, but with the ship’s guidance camera, the SRU (Stellar Reference Unit). The photo is in black and white, but that shouldn’t detract from the profusion of details and information that can be found there.

The SRU is a star-referenced navigational instrument, and it was designed to be bass sensitive. lightslights. The mission team wished that during this overviewoverview unprecedented, it opens theeyeeye on Europa. The probe was 412 kilometers above a poorly known region when the picture was taken. This region was then partly immersed in the night, or rather in a penumbrapenumbrafor she shone with the light of the SunSun reflected by Jupiter. A light from Jupiter.

An intriguing image of the surface of Europa

The image covers a space that extends over 150 kilometers in width and 200 in height. What is striking at first glance are all these scratches that could recall the Nazca lines, but the comparison stops there, because they are of natural origin on Jupiter’s satellite. There are simple and thin lines, others wider and finally, a large number of parallel double lines which cross each other. Scientists indicate that the latter are reliefs, parallel ridge lines, witnesses of ice tectonics. This strange world is far from being static and fixed.

Another curiosity on this picture, the darker circular spots. These are still visible traces of the impact of meteoritesmeteorites. These craters will gradually disappear, erased by the regular resurfacing on the surface of Europa.

Animation created from images collected by the Junocam during the space probe’s flyby of Europa. © NASA, JPL-Caltech and Gerald Eichstädt (image processing)

But the most intriguing features are those dark spots visible at the top of the image, around the parallel line, and also those that intersect at the top right, and near the center, towards the right arm. Two black spots appear there in the middle of the fairly wide traces a few tens of kilometers from the crater. NASA explains that they measure approximately 67 and 37 kilometers in diameter and are “possibly linked to something rising from below the surface via eruptions”. “These characteristics are very intriguingsaid Heidi Becker, researcher on the SRU team. Understanding how they were formed, and how they connect to European history, tells us about the internal and external processes that shape the crustcrust of ice “.

Case to follow. Either way, the researchers are only just beginning to exploit all the information collected by the probe. “All of the spacecraft’s science instruments collected data both during the flyby of Europa, and when Juno flew past the poles of Jupiter, 7.5 hours later”, NASA wrote in its press release. An overview, no doubt, with plenty of surprises to come.

NASA and ESA want to search for life on Europa, a moon of Jupiter, with a lander

Next year, Juno will pay close visit to the highly volcanic IoIoanother large satellite of Jupiter.

Article of Xavier DemeersmannXavier Demeersmann published on September 30, 2022

The Juno space probe, which studies Jupiter, has made the closest flyby of Europa, the sixth largest moon in the Solar System, for 22 years. The first images of its icy surface arrive. This is only the third time in history that a ship has brushed past the Galilean satellite less than 500 kilometers from its surface.

It had been 22 years since the surface of Europa had been seen so closely. And as a bonus, some images sent will have the best resolution (one kilometer per pixel) acquired for this moon of Jupiter, NASA announced. The images and data collected by the Juno space probe continue to arrive and several enthusiasts have already begun to process the photos taken by the Junocam, the mission’s camera.

The Juno probe focuses mainly on Jupiter with the aim of unlocking the mysteries it hides from us, but sometimes its orbitorbit be modified to fly over the largest moons of the gas giantgas giantthe Galilean satellites.

Europa, a potentially habitable moon

Europe is of particular interest to astronomersastronomers for surveys strongly suggest the existence of a salty global ocean beneath its thick crust of ice. Everything indicates, study after study, that this moon of 3,000 kilometers in diameter (4 times smaller than the Earth) is potentially habitable. There are no certainties yet but the conditions are met. For this reason, and to deepen our knowledge of its structure, its atmosphereatmosphere and its activity, a space probe will be entirely dedicated to it. Named Europa Clipper, it will leave Earth in 2024 for a six-year journey to its target, more than 600 million kilometers away.

Beautiful details of the surface of Europa

Thursday, September 29, 2022, Juno skimmed Europa up to 352 kilometers above its surface in the region called Annwn, near theequatorequator. On the boundary between day and night, the terminatorterminator, the projected shadows highlight, so to speak, the reliefs on this crust of ice. A crust that can also be compared to bark, with its cracks and roughness. We are far from a polished scoop of ice cream. It’s moving a lot inside the Galilean moon, as evidenced by the many crevasses running across its surface. There are also impact craters being formed. healinghealing because the internal activity causes a regular resurfacing of the satellite. There is a kind of ice tectonics that scientists intend to better understand and map thanks to this flyby of Juno, while waiting for those of Europa Clipper. As well as possible lakes trapped in ice closer to the surface, and water leaks into space.

Hubble brings evidence of persistent water vapor in a European hemisphere

“The science team will compare the full set of images obtained by Juno with images from previous missions, looking to see if Europa’s surface features have changed over the past two decades.explained in the NASA press release Candy Hansen, of the Juno team. JunoCam images will populate the current geological map, replacing the existing low-resolution coverage of the area”.

We have the first images of this exceptional flyby of Europa, the second of a Galilean moon since the mission was extended (the previous one was the moon Ganymede), but Juno has also collected valuable radiometric data which “will provide new details on how Europa’s ice structure varies beneath its crust”, reveals NASA. All of this is eagerly awaited. Likewise, we look forward to seeing the volcanic Io up close, two Juno flybys of which are planned for 2023 and 2024. This looks very promising.

Find the images taken by the Junocam of the Juno probe and processed by citizens in its dedicated “image processing” gallery.

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