Hubble telescope captures spouting water vapour plumes on Jupiter's icy moon Europa
Photo: An artistic illustration of Europa's icy surface with a water jet in the foreground. (K Retherford/Southwest Research Institute)
"Towering plumes of water vapour have been observed blasting off Jupiter's icy moon Europa, which is believed to hold an underground ocean.If confirmed as water vapour, the discovery could affect scientists' ideas on whether the moon has the right conditions for life, Southwest Research Institute planetary scientist Kurt Retherford said.
"We've only seen this at one location right now, so to try to infer that there's a global effect as a result of this is a little difficult at this time," Dr Retherford said.
The 200-kilometre-high plumes of water vapour were observed by researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope in December last year.
The jets were not seen during Hubble observations of the same region in October 1999 and November 2012. The now-defunct Galileo spacecraft, which made nine passes by Europa in the late 1990s, likewise did not detect any plumes.
"We have probably observed only one of the largest plumes on Europa," Dr Retherford told the BBC.
"There could be a lot of plumes, more like 10 to 50 kilometres high, and we're just not seeing them with our current data-sets."(quoted from abc news)
BBC/Reuters retrieved 12/15/13
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