Where Did Europa’s Water Geyser Go? Hubble Double-Checking Its Work

Rendering showing the location and size of water vapor plumes coming from Europa's south pole. Credit: NASA/ESA/L. Roth/SWRI/University of Cologne

Rendering showing the location and size of water vapor plumes coming from Europa’s south pole. Credit: NASA/ESA/L. Roth/SWRI/University of Cologne

It was about this time last year that Europa really began to excite us again. Following a sci-fi movie about the Jupiter moon, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope announced they had found possible water vapor near the icy moon — maybe from geysers erupting from its icy surface. (That is, if the finding was not due to signal noise, which researchers acknowledged at the time.)

As NASA ramped up (distant) plans to get close to Europa again, scientists began plumbing data from the Cassini spacecraft to see if its glance at the moon circa 2001 revealed anything. Turns out that the spacecraft didn’t see any sign of a plume. Which leads to the greater question, what is happening?

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© Elizabeth Howell for Universe Today, 2014. |
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