Now, scientists say the moon can glow green in the dark when Jupiter’s high levels of radiation from Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field interact with its icy surface.
Lab simulations have found that the irradiated tape emits green light in a process known as “electron excitation luminescence”.
“The glow of ice at night that happens on Europa can be very unique and unlike any other phenomenon in our solar system,” the study says.
The finding was published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday.
An upcoming mission of NASA̵7;s Europa Clipper spacecraft, scheduled to launch by the end of the decade, could observe the light and map chemical composition, the authors of the study said. of the Europa surface by measuring the amount of ice visible at different wavelengths.
These observations could also allow scientists to find out the chemical makeup of the ocean below the lunar surface – for example, its salinity – which Murthy Gudipati, lead author of the study and Lead scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, is said to be “critical to potential viability.”
“Imagine a full coconut, with a hard outer shell and then coconut meat (similar to Europa’s ice shell) and inside we have water in the coconut,” he said via email.
“It is thought that a liquid ocean tens of kilometers long below this ice may have (a) habitat. ”
The Europa Clipper, named for the streamlined sailing ships of the 1800s, could be launched as early as 2023, but a target launch has been set in 2025. It is expected to be to Europa after a journey that lasted a few years.
Europa Clipper will carry a camera and spectrometer to take pictures and determine the composition of the moon.
The cross-ice radar will measure the thickness of the ice sheet covering the oceans and help find sub-surface lakes thought to be there – just like in Antarctica on Earth. A magnetometer can determine the strength and direction of a magnetic field and can help us understand the ocean’s depth and its salinity.
Understanding the radiation flow on Europa is key because particles can be the source of energy for the basic chemical reactions necessary for life.
“Radiation is actually a form of energy, like sunlight hitting the Earth – very important for life on Earth,” Murthy said. “Radiation in the form of high-energy electrons, protons and ions could also be one of the requirements for Europa’s potential viability.
“Radiation to the surface breaks the bonds of water, salt and organic matter molecules – if any – produces more energy-rich molecules, such as hydrogen peroxide … that are stable under temperature conditions. of Europa, “he explained.
“These energy-rich materials can enter the oceans on a geological time scale (millions of years), which could increase Europa’s chances of living.”