The reason behind this is the fact that strong evidence suggests there is a massive ocean beneath Europa’s thick, icy crust that could potentially be habitable. Now, scientists have theorized that there are also large pockets of water hidden within that ice shell, a blog post from NASA reveals.
Europa’s icy shell might be hiding large water reservoirs
Scientists believe salty liquid reservoirs may reside within Europa’s icy shell — some of them close to the surface and others far below. The new discovery is detailed in a paper published in The Planetary Science Journal.
The discovery was made thanks to observations taken by NASA’s Galileo orbiter that may help guide NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, which is set to launch in 2024.
The Galileo orbiter’s observations support the long-held idea that water could erupt above the surface of Europa as plumes of vapor or as cryovolcanic activity — the latter would resemble a volcanic eruption but with slushy ice instead of lava.
NASA scientists used computer simulations to show that any eruptions would likely come from these liquid reservoirs instead of from the ocean deep below the icy surface.
“We demonstrated that plumes or cryolava flows could mean there are shallow liquid reservoirs below, which Europa Clipper would be able to detect,” explained Elodie Lesage, Europa scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and lead author of the research. “Our results give new insights into how deep the water might be that’s driving surface activity, including plumes. And the water should be shallow enough that it can be detected by multiple Europa Clipper instruments.”