Hubble Spies Water Vapor Venting Off Europa

Posted on December 14, 2013

Water vapor plume erupting on Europa - artists concept


NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has observed water vapor venting off Jupiter's moon Europa. NASA scientists say this is the first strong evidence of water plumes erupting off the moon's surface. Researchers say water vapor generated by erupting water vapor plumes is the most likely source of the water water vapor spotted by Hubble. An artist's concept of a plume of water being ejected from Europa is above. A large image of the illustration can be found here.

Lorenz Roth of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, lead author of the research, said in a statement, "By far the simplest explanation for this water vapor is that it erupted from plumes on the surface of Europa. If those plumes are connected with the subsurface water ocean we are confident exists under Europa's crust, then this means that future investigations can directly investigate the chemical makeup of Europa's potentially habitable environment without drilling through layers of ice. And that is tremendously exciting."

NASA also released a graphic showing the location of the water vapor detected over Europa's south pole.

Image: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI