Scientists have uncovered an unbelievable secret satellites of Jupiter

Olive Hawkins
October 11, 2018

Jupiter's moon Europa is probably the most promising place in our solar system to search for signs of life beyond Earth.

Self-organized surface patterning is ubiquitous in terrestrial snow and ice during ablation by radiative heating, through both sublimation and melting.

The conditions on Europa are considerably better for penitente formation, as the authors of the new study, led by Daniel Hobley from Cardiff University, point out. The theory explains how the sun's rays can be so strong that turns the water directly into vapor, leaving behind sharp formations.

We have penitentes here on Earth, but they're only found in high-altitude regions near the tropics, such as the Andes, and they range in size from about 1m to 5m.

Europa harbours a huge ocean under an icy crust up to 15 miles thick - conditions in which organisms could thrive. According to the models, Europa's penitentes are capable of growing to around 15m tall, with a spacing of about 7.5m between each one.

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Research published this past July suggests scientists on the hunt for life will have a better chance of finding potential biosignatures in Europa's younger ice and in lower-radiation locations. It was also inferred that the penitentes would be more common around Europa's equator.

Past studies of Europa's icy shell have envisioned a surface that is smooth at the lander scale, dominated by diffusive impact processes such as impact gardening and sputtering by charged particles in Jupiter's magnetic field. But the scientists of Cardiff University warned that located on Jupiter's moon of ice will kill any mission before it landed.

Why is there sharp ice on Europa?

It is high on the list of targets for future interplanetary space missions.

Jeff Moore, a co-author on the study and a Planetary Geologist at NASA's Ames research Center in Mountain View, CA, notes that NASA's upcoming Europa Clipper mission, set for launch early in the next decade, could directly observe penetentes with its high-resolution camera, and measure other properties of these interesting objects with the spacecraft's other instruments.

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