Above is a picture of the satellite Europa.  Europa revolves around the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. 

Between the years of 1995 and 2003 us earthlings had a probe that was buzzing around that monster planet taking readings, doing tests, taking pictures and generally being a really good robot.  That probe was called Galileo.

Of all the satellites in our solar system (to our current knowledge) there is none like Europa.  In most pictures of satellites, like our moon for example, they’re littered with craters.  These craters are used to date the satellites.  A heavily cratered satellite generally means that it’s really old.  Without the natural process of erosion like we have on earth, those craters will probably last indefinitely.  However, if you look at a picture of our moon (which is comparable in size to Europa) and then look at this picture, you will notice the glaring lack of any type of craters on the surface.  What is going on here?

First I will make an observation:  Europa is not a young satellite.  The lack of craters in this case does not equate to age.  The lack of craters is evidence of an active geological process(es) or in other words a ‘young’ surface.

Scientific observation and data that was returned by the Galileo spacecraft eluded strongly to the possibility of liquid water beneath its surface that remains liquid due to tidal pressures resulting from it’s proximity to Jupiter.  This would mean that a very significant portion of the first 50km from the surface downward, is frozen like an extremely huge snowball.

Another striking observation made with the picture above are the streaks of dark material that criss-crosses the surface.  Scientists don’t have a very good explanation of what this is and what it’s caused by.  It’s very intriguing!  There’s plenty of speculation but not enough knowledge.  That is why the ESA is putting together a mission to take a much closer look at Europa in order to ‘scratch the surface’ and find out what exactly is there.  I can’t wait!

For more information, take a look at this article: Europa Geology


~ by aeroslin on December 3, 2007.

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