Stunning Nasa photos of Jupiter’s moon ‘that may be hiding extraterrestrial life’ revealed – The Irish Sun

THE FIRST images taken by a Nasa spacecraft as it conducted a close flyby of Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa have arrived back on Earth.

The series of snaps released Thursday has given scientists an up-close look at the mysterious, icy satellite for two decades.

The next photos of Jupiter's moon Europa, taken in 20 years, have been released

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The next photos of Jupiter’s moon Europa, taken in 20 years, have been releasedSource: NASA/JPL/DLR/SwRI/MSSS
Snapshots of the ice satellite were taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft

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Snapshots of the ice satellite were taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraftSource: NASA/JPL/DLR/SwRI/MSSS

They were captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it approached within about 219 miles (352 kilometers) of Europe.

The moon is believed to have an ocean beneath its thick frozen crust, increasing the possibility of underwater life.

Scientists hailed the flyby as a success, with four images beamed down and released within hours.

They had hoped to observe possible water plumes shooting off the surface of Europa, the size of Earth’s moon.

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In the first look, however, none were immediately visible.

“We have to be in the right place at exactly the right time,” Juno’s chief scientist Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said in a statement.

John Bordi, deputy chief of mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, expected the spacecraft to fly by fairly quickly.

He said the Intrepid probe was traveling at a relative speed of nearly 15 miles per second (23.6 kilometers per second).

The first photo from the flyby is a close-up of Europe’s equatorial region, dotted with ridges, troughs and possibly an impact crater.

The latest observations will help NASA plan its Europa Clipper mission.

It is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida in 2024 and arrive in the Jovian system in 2030.

The European Space Agency is also planning close encounters with its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or Juice, which will lift off next year.

NASA’s former Galileo spacecraft still holds the Europe flyby record, passing within 218 miles (351 kilometers) in 2000.

Europa is home to ice-covered oceans thought to be about 15 miles thick, and scientists suspect life may well be beneath it.

An image of Europa taken by the Galileo spacecraft (left) alongside raw images of Europa taken by Juno this week

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An image of Europa taken by the Galileo spacecraft (left) alongside raw images of Europa taken by Juno this week

Previous research has confirmed the presence of water and oxygen on its surface, which are essential for sustaining life, as well as chemicals that could serve as nutrients.

How the oxygen gets past the giant ice to allow whatever lurks deep below to breathe is left to scientific theory, but in March a team put together a model to show how it might work.

They are convinced that salt water in the ice shell could transport oxygen.

In creating a physics-based computer simulation of the process, the oxygen essentially rides on salt water beneath the moon’s “chaososterrains,” landscapes made up of cracks, ridges, and blocks of ice.

Their results show that not only is this possible, but it could also mean that Europe’s ocean contains a similar amount of oxygen as the oceans here on Earth.

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British professor Monica Grady previously said she believes we have a better chance of finding extraterrestrial life on Europa than on Mars, which tends to steal most of the focus.

“I think we have a better chance of having slightly higher life forms on Europa, maybe similar in intelligence to an octopus,” she said earlier this year.

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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/9492432/nasa-photos-jupiters-moon-alien-life/ Stunning Nasa photos of Jupiter’s moon ‘that may be hiding extraterrestrial life’ revealed – The Irish Sun

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