West News Wire: Prior to its demise twenty years ago, the Galileo spacecraft discovered various compounds, including carbon dioxide, on the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Now, a few studies based on data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) show that the ocean buried beneath Europa’s icy crust is where the carbon dioxide on its surface originated. Additionally, the experts have determined that it is rather recent in origin, at least geologically.
Scientists discovered that the region of Europa known as Tara Regio, or “chaos terrain,” had the highest concentration of carbon dioxide through studies performed with the telescope’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument. Tara Regio can be seen as the yellowish region to the left of the moon’s centre in the photos above.
Emily Martin, a planetary geologist at the National Air and Space Museum, told Scientific American that scientists believe Tara Regio’s ice surface broke up when the weather got warm enough at one point. That caused the water from the subsurface ocean to come up, until it got cold again to create a slushy icy water sort of area. It’s worth noting that previous Hubble observations of the region show that it also contains table salt, which indicates that saltwater, indeed, could’ve risen up to the surface of the moon.
If Europa’s carbon dioxide truly did come from its ocean instead of from meteors or other sources, then it would establish a big similarity between our planet and the moon. Europa is one of the objects in our solar system that’s under observation for potentially having the conditions to support life. In April this year, the European Space Agency launched the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer or JUICE to make detailed observations of the planet’s ocean-bearing moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. Meanwhile, NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft, which will focus on the potential for life in the moon’s ocean, is scheduled to take off sometime next year.