Mystery of Europa’s strange surface has been solved. New study states that the black matter present on Jupiter’s moon may be irradiated salt.
Researchers have spent many years trying to solve the mystery behind the dark materials present on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. A team of NASA scientisst lead by expert Kevin Hand, believe they have shed light on the entire situation.
Scientists have many questions regarding Europa and one of the most intriguing and important questions of them all, is if it exists life on it. Studies like this one are very important as they focus on questions that science has answers for, such as, if Europa can sustain life or not, explained NASA scientist Curt Niebur.
Once these questions are answered, studies can go further in finding if there is life in the ocean beneath the ice surface of Europa.
The surface of Europa is constantly struck with radiation coming from the magnetic field of Jupiter and according to the news research, the dark matter is in fact salt which has been exposed to radiation.
The existence of sea salt on Europa implies that its ocean is connected to the rocky seafloor which represents a very important fact in determining whether Jupiter’s moon can sustain life, explained researchers.
In order to find out what’s behind Europa’s dark material, experts from NASA, designed a system that would imitate Europa’s surface. The project was given the name of “Europa in a Can” and imitates the environment conditions on Europa, starting from pressure, temperature and levels of exposure to radiation.
The study was conducted in a vacuum chamber, where researchers set a temperature similar to the one on Europa (173 degrees Celsius) and started striking salt samples with an electron beam that aimed to act as the radiation waves coming from Jupiter.
After their simulated surface had been exposed for tens of hours(which on Europa stands for about a century) to the harsh conditions, the samples of salt which were white at the beginning, started to change color and transformed into a more darker color, resembling to Europa’s surface, stated scientists.
The dark matter on Europa covers different areas of the moon, which suggests that the material is being released from beneath and exposure and radiation lead to discoloration in time.
In 2022, NASA is planning a mission to Europa, which will require a budget of over $2.1 billion. Their aim is to analyze the conditions on Jupiter’s moon, its capacity of sustaining life and to study the presence of water vapors.
For the moment, the telescopes and the technology owned, dont allow researchers to confirm their findings which means that NASA will have to do confirm that during a mission to Jupiter.
Image Source: TIME