NASA has shared a stunning close-up of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
The US space agency published the photo recently taken by its Galileo spacecraft on its Instagram account on Sunday.
In the photo, half of Europa can be seen with reddish-brown streaks running across its ice-white-blue surface.
The Moon of Galilee is captured in natural color during its first and fourteenth lunar orbits.
“Europa’s surface is constantly changing as its frozen surface constantly cracks and refreezes, creating the unique patterns of Jupiter’s icy moon,” Nasa explained in its caption.
The agency noted that the colors on Europa’s surface show how the “striking geological differences of the Moon’s cracks, crags and ridges intertwine with its frozen surface.”
While areas that appear blue or white are pure water ice, red-brown regions have mostly non-ice components.
Viewers can also see in the image that Europa’s poles – left and right of the image – are bluer, possibly because of the ice particles.
Nasa said it will explore Europe sometime in 2024 with its own flagship mission called Europa Clipper.
“The spacecraft will study the moon in detail and see if it can provide conditions suitable for life,” the agency added.
Clipper, which Forbes says is about the size of an SUV, is scheduled to reach Europe around March 7, 2031, after a nearly seven-year journey.
The mission will set NASA back $4.25 billion and explore Europa’s terrain – from the ocean’s salinity to the chemistry of its ice crust.
The search for organic compounds such as sulfates and carbonates is also on the agenda of the orbiter, which will fly past the icy moon repeatedly.
“Clipper will conduct a detailed survey of Jupiter’s moon Europa and investigate whether viable conditions may exist on the icy moon,” NASA writes on its mission website.
Nasa scientists say Europa is an ideal candidate for extraterrestrial life because it possesses the “essential ingredients for life: water, chemistry and energy.”
The researchers predict that beneath Europa’s surface lies a salty ocean containing more water “than the oceans on Earth put together.”
https://www.the-sun.com/tech/6051302/nasa-image-icy-jupiter-moon-host-life/ Nasa unveils stunning image of Jupiter’s icy moon that could harbor life