On Jupiter's ice moon Europa, researchers have mapped sulfur traces. UV data from the Hubble Space Telescope completes the findings.


In order to fill in a "gap" in the different wavelengths utilized to monitor this frozen water planet, a team led by the Southwest Research Institute used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe Jupiter's moon, Europa, at ultraviolet wavelengths. Sulfur dioxide concentrations are visible on Europa's backside according to the team's near-global UV maps.

The Europa Ultraviolet Spectrograph (Europa-UVS), which will examine Jupiter's fourth-largest moon from NASA's Europa Clipper, set to launch in 2024, will be used by SwRI to further these investigations. A saltwater ocean with roughly twice as much water as all of Earth's seas is probably certainly present under the frozen surface of Europa, according to scientists. This moon may be the most favorable location in our solar system for extraterrestrial life.

Dr. Tracy Becker, lead author of a report presenting these UV findings, stated that Europa's very youthful surface is predominantly made of water ice, even if other components have been found all over it. "Understanding the creation and future development of Europa depends on knowing if these additional components are native to Europa."

Analyzing the top material can reveal details about the beneath ocean's composition. The near-global sulfur dioxide map created by SwRI's dataset is the first to show correlations between large-scale darker areas in both the visible and ultraviolet wavelengths.

Dr. Philippa Molyneux of SwRI, a co-author of the article, remarked, "The results were not surprising, but we did acquire significantly greater coverage and resolution than earlier observations." "The 'trailing' hemisphere of Europa contains the majority of the sulfur dioxide. As sulfur emitted from Io's volcanoes is trapped in Jupiter's co-rotating magnetic field and slammed into Europa's backside, it is most likely concentrated there."

Io, another of Jupiter's biggest moons, is thought to be the solar system's most volcanically active body. Sulfur dioxide may be produced on Europa's surface as a result of chemical interactions between the water ice and sulfur triggered by Jupiter's magnetic field.

"We are continuing to attempt to solve the issue of why Europa, whose surface is known to be dominated by water ice, does not appear like water ice at ultraviolet wavelengths, as proven by this article," Becker said. "In addition to examining the sulfur dioxide on the surface. "We are trying hard to figure out why,"