Hubble Directly Images Possible Water Plumes on Europa

Posted on September 26, 2016

Composite image showing Water plumes on Europa at 7 o'clock position

Hubble has directly imaged what may possibly be plumes of water on Jupiter's moon Europa. Europa has a very large subsurface ocean. The water plumes could provide scientists with another means of sampling water on Europa without having to drill through miles of ice.

The above image of Europa shows the suspected plumes of water at the 7 o'clock position. A larger version of the image can be found here.

Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, says in a statement, "Europa's ocean is considered to be one of the most promising places that could potentially harbor life in the solar system. These plumes, if they do indeed exist, may provide another way to sample Europa's subsurface."

NASA says the plumes are estimated to rise about 125 miles (250 kilometers) before raining material back down onto the surface. A research team led by Lorenz Roth of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio previously detected water vapor erupting from the south polar region of Europa in 2012. The latest discovery was made using a totally independent method. NASA says scientists may use the James Webb Space Telescope (scheduled to launch in 2018) to confirm venting or plume activity on Europa.

Here is a video about the water plume observations from NASA Goddard. Take a look:

Photo: NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center

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