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    Jupiter's icy moon Europa

    Searching for ET: Scientists 'Blown Away' by New Analysis of Europa

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    A team of US scientists suggested that liquid water under Europa, the sixth-closest moon of Jupiter, is much warmer than previously thought.

    Researchers from Columbia and Brown Universities in the US believe that the icy subsurface ocean of Europa, the sixth-closest moon of Jupiter, is considerably warmer than they thought, according to a study published by the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

    Lead author Christine McCarthy of Columbia University was quoted by the website sci-news.com as saying that "scientists had expected to see cold, dead places, but right away they were blown away by their striking surfaces."

    "There was clearly some sort of tectonic activity — things moving around and cracking. There were also places on Europa that look like melt-through or mushy ice," he said.

    Jupiter's moon Europa
    © NASA . JPL
    Jupiter's moon Europa

    Creating enough heat for these active processes, which take place far away from the Sun, is only possible with the help of tidal dissipation, according to him.

    "The effect is a bit like what happens when someone repeatedly bends a metal coat hanger," he pointed out.

    In a bid to try to understand this process better, the US scientists ran a spate of deformation experiments, loading ice samples into a compression apparatus.

    "We discovered that, relative to the models the community has been using, ice appears to be an order of magnitude more dissipative than people had thought," Reid Cooper of Brown University said.

    The findings are expected to add to researchers' better understanding of the thickness of Europa's outer shell, which will in turn help scientist estimate the possibility of alien life on Jupiter's moon.

    Europa was first discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. In 1979, it was first examined by NASA's Voyager mission and it was first seen in detail by NASA's Galileo orbiter in the 1990s, according to the sci-news.com.


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