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Underwater snow likely ‘falling’ on Jupiter’s moon Europa

Underwater snow likely 'falling' on Jupiter's moon Europa

In the ocean depths of Jupiter’s moon Europa, as well as under the Earth’s ice, probably unusual “snow” particles move from the bottom up, which are deposited in the ice sheet. This could tell us a lot for planetary scientists planning missions to explore Europe.

Europa is the fourth largest moon on Jupiter covered in a deep ocean hidden under several kilometers of ice. According to researchers from the University of Texas, Austin (USA), underwater snow “falls” under this thick glacier from the bottom of the mountain.

The same thing sometimes happens on Earth.

This type of ice is exceptionally clean – it contains much less salt, for example.

This information is important for future missions, because the salt trapped in the ice determines, among other things, how the radar waves travel.

Information about the ocean, among other things, will help check whether there are conditions for the development of life in it.

Austin researchers are currently involved in building the radar that will operate on the Europa Clipper spacecraft.

The authors of a new study published in the journal Astrobiology looked at two ways in which water freezes to form ice.

It can be formed by the freezing of water on the surface, or by the accumulation of so-called ice present (grease).

In the latter case, ice crystals are formed at different depths of very cold water, which, due to its lower density than water, rise to the surface and accumulate on it.

Both types of ice are less salty than liquid water. Grease, according to new analyzes, should be popular in Europe, especially low in salt.

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This in turn means that Europe’s ice sheet contains much less salt than previously estimated.

And this, in turn, affects most of its properties – from strength to thermal conductivity and glacial tectonics.

“This publication opens up a whole host of new possibilities for theories about ocean worlds and how they work,” said Steve Vance of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who was not involved in the study.

“It creates a new foundation on which to build our preparations for ice analysis during the Europa Clipper mission,” he adds.

This discovery could also help understand Europe through further research into Earth’s ice.

Study co-author Donald Blankenship, chief radar scientist for the Europa Clipper mission, explains.

More information at: https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/961794

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ast.2021.0044 (PAP)

Marek Matakz

mat / agt /

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