NASA study finds Jupiter’s icy moon Europa glows in dark


By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: November 12, 2020 4:51:13 pm

An artist’s illustration of Jupiter’s moon Europa (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

One of Jupiter’s 79 moons, Europa is expected to have a trait that distinguishes it from the others. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) finds that Europa can glow in the dark due to radiation. The moon which has had scientists hooked to it because of the vast ocean beneath its surface. They came to the conclusion that the reason behind it glowing in the dark is the radiation it receives from the largest planet of our solar system.

“We were able to predict that this nightside ice glow could provide additional information on Europa’s surface composition. How that composition varies could give us clues about whether Europa harbours conditions suitable for life,” said JPL’s Murthy Gudipati, lead author of the study.

As per the study, Jupiter pounds Europa’s icy surface with electrons round the clock. This leads to the interaction of molecules present beneath the moon’s surface further resulting in the glowing of its dark side, unlike Earth’s moon. This research was conducted in a laboratory where scientists cloned the conditions of the celestial object. The instrument used to get the result is Ice Chamber for Europa’s High-Energy Electron and Radiation Environment Testing (ICE-HEART).

“If Europa weren’t under this radiation, it would look the way our moon looks to us – dark on the shadowed side,” Gudipati said. “But because it’s bombarded by the radiation from Jupiter, it glows in the dark.”

Unlike Earth’s moon, Europa’s shine is not dependent on the sunlight it receives. The research team also believes that its surface may contain common salt found on our planet as well which helps it glow in the dark. The reason behind the icy glow can also include salts like magnesium sulfate and sodium chloride.

The Europa moon already has generated interest because of the possibility of some source of life in the vast ocean. With the launch of the US-based space agency’s flagship mission, Europa Clipper which will flyby the moon multiple times while orbiting around Jupiter. This will help scientists understand whether their hypothesis was correct or not. Also, it will help them identify the salty components on Europa or narrow the search down to a few specifics.

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