01:42 GMT +312 November 2019
Listen Live
    Two views of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa

    Hydrogen Cloud Found Around Jupiter’s Moon

    © AP Photo / NASA
    Tech
    Get short URL
    1125
    Subscribe

    The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) spotted a hydrogen corona around Europe, Jupiter’s water moon. The discovery may help astronomers learn more about the moon’s thin atmosphere.

    Europa's atmosphere is oxygen-based, but researchers have long since suspected that the celestial body also produces hydrogen, which either freezes or escapes the moon's gravity.

    Lorenz Roth, of Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology, studying Europa with the HST using an ultraviolet lens, discovered a large cloud of hydrogen surrounding the moon, confirming the hypothesis.

    "The main goal of the observing campaign was actually finding localized signals from water vapor in the ultraviolet hydrogen emission. Yet we found a widely extended and homogeneous cloud of hydrogen around Europa," Lorenz told Phys.org. 

    "The amount of hydrogen we observed was actually expected to exist and ultimately originates from the erosion of Europa water ice surface," he said. Only spaceborne telescopes could have made this discovery, as Earth's atmosphere would have absorbed the ultraviolet light necessary to make the distinction.

    Europa is believed to be composed of a rocky center, an enormous underground ocean, and an icy crust. It is famous for its surface, which resembles a well-worn ice rink, with enormous scratches that line the ice. 

    Being covered in water, scientists believe it to be one of the most likely places in the solar system for life to have formed. It is also seen as one of the best candidates for human colonization, as it has an oxygen atmosphere, although the amount of oxygen on the surface is unknown.

    In 2015, NASA confirmed the Europa Multiple-Flyby Mission with a planned launch in 2022 to map the moon's atmosphere and surface as well as search for the presence of life or its components.

    Related:

    Aliens Found? Hubble’s Europa Photos Reveal 'Surprising Activity'
    Life on Europa? Scientists Look for Right Chemical Mix in Icy Alien Ocean
    Searching for ET: Scientists 'Blown Away' by New Analysis of Europa
    China Intends to Conduct 2 Mars Missions, 1 Jupiter Probe
    Lockheed Martin to Build Solar System Probe for Trojan Asteroids Near Jupiter
    Tags:
    space, astronomy, atmosphere, moon, Hubble Space Telescope, Europa
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik