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B NASA Europa announcement

  1. Sep 21, 2016 #1
    for those interested: http://www.sciencealert.com/nasa-s-...about-surprising-activity-on-europa-on-monday
    Any speculations as to what they will announce? I was thinking plumes like on Enceladus but then I realised they've already been seen on Europa. So my guess it'll be something that these plumes are more common than thought or they imply the ocean is closer to the surface than thought or something like that. Any other ideas?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 21, 2016 #2


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    From the article you linked to...
  4. Sep 21, 2016 #3
    That would hardly be news, most people already think there is a subsurface ocean so that we must have some data about it. Maybe increasing confidence that its there ( which was already pretty damm high) or some new property of it that was unknown. Maybe the depth of the ice sheet?
  5. Sep 21, 2016 #4
    "Manage our expectations"??
    Also from the article - "Hubble Space Telescope images of Europa, and are to do with "activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa".
    "the moon has vast, salty oceans below its crust, but without sending a rover there, we haven't been able to confirm this."
    I'm not sure what revelation Hubble could provide, but we've seen a lot of anti-climactic NASA announcements before. I'm guessing this will be one of them. The newsflash would be when they finally send a real probe or rover to physically study Europa. At least sample the surface ice, especially the areas where it looks like the ice has cracked and allowed warmer ice to well up from beneath. Send back some data on that and I'll gladly tune in.
    I've always found NASA's lack of funding for Europa missions to be a little puzzling. On the one hand, it's not the greatest place for any kind of habitation, too far away too much radiation, etc. That's a given.
    On the other hand, NASA claims they're looking for life. "Follow the water" they say. But we've known about at least one internally warm, giant ball of water out there for decades and still not even a lander to sample the icy shell. The list of abandoned missions goes on and on - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_(moon)#Exploration . No time for Europa, but plenty of time and money for Mars. We just keep battin' those probes out there. What did the last Mars probe find? Rocks and dust. What will the next Mars probe find? More rocks and dust. This has gone on since the 1970s. Can we send even one of these probes to a world we heavily suspect harbors a real, present day ocean? Get some important questions answered about a probable water world?? Nah. We'll announce we took a picture of it with Hubble, though. Lookit there, it's round and icy. Huh. Is there possibly an ocean there with life in it? The world may never know for sure. We're too busy working on Mars and Pluto.
  6. Sep 21, 2016 #5
    A fair point. Im hoping the hype is to try and get people excited about Europa to fund a mission go there. Im be surprised if NASA would turn down the opportunity if given to them.
  7. Sep 21, 2016 #6


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    Although I agree that Europa deserves a good look under her skirt (of ice), I also find Mars really interesting.

    Actually, Mars has those salty, liquid water, seasonal seeps. It could drive Curiosity over to one of them, but they are worried that Curiosity would contaminate it with earth life (bacteria, fungi, tardigrades) which might be invasive, out compete the local stuff and screw up their Mars life studies (plus destroy the local environment).
    These same environmental issues will apply to anything going to Europa of course.
  8. Sep 22, 2016 #7
    Apparently NASA are going to say something about an observation made by the Hubble telescope.
    That probably means something interesting has been seen on the surface.
  9. Sep 22, 2016 #8
    Yes, I'm aware, there are also more discoveries that could be made on Mars if they took ice core samples from a polar region or tried to explore some of the caves they've detected. Of course they haven't actually done any of that, they seem to think they'll find some sort of extremophile in the seep you mentioned. Even if they did, there would be endless debate - did it come from the rover itself? As you mentioned, contamination is a concern. All I'm suggesting is, let's take a break from pictures of sand and rocks on Mars and sample some of that sea ice from Europa. Martian sand 'n seep is not as interesting to me as a global ocean.
    I will give NASA credit for a pretty good Cassini mission, though. Passing Cassini through the plumes of Enceladus is my kind of mission, they should apply the same vigor to Europa. Huygens landing on Titan was excellent work too. Again, we could use that approach with Europa.
  10. Sep 23, 2016 #9


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    Learning about our own solar system is difficult, even with our finest telescopes. The universe is really, really big.
  11. Sep 23, 2016 #10


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    Thanks for posting about the news! It will be very interesting to hear about it on Monday!
  12. Sep 23, 2016 #11


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    NASA astrobiologist Kevin Hand compared the chemistry of Europa to the circuit of a battery. He likened the oxidants from the ice to its positive end and the chemicals from the seafloor to the negative end.

    “Whether or not life and biological processes complete the circuit is part of what motivates our exploration of Europa," Hand said in the press release


    The remarks of the NASA astrobiologist set me to musing over the electrical basis of human cellular activity. From coral with its geological attributes to carbon-breathing trees on Earth, there are lifeforms which stretch the term, biology.
  13. Sep 23, 2016 #12
    Mr. Hand is the gentleman that predicted that extraterrestrial life will be found in 20 years. I think he's quite an optimist. To settle his question of whether or not active biology exists in that ocean, I'm thinking he'll need an analysis of ice or water from the ocean in question. Since we're not even remotely close to obtaining such a sample (indeed, we're getting excited because of a distant snapshot at this point) it seems like he will not see such a sample (or remote analysis of one) in his lifetime. All NASA seems to do about Europa is concept studies these days. Even the Europa Clipper mission they talked about in 2015 won't feature a lander. It wouldn't even orbit Europa. Until it's built and ready to launch, it's really just a pipe dream like all the other proposed and discarded Europa missions. House Appropriations gave them $80 million back in 2014 and they came up with the exceedingly lame moniker of "Europa Clipper" backed up with some ifs and maybes. On NASA's JPL page they say -
    "NASA's planned Europa mission would conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter's moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life"
    Haven't we already determined that it could potentially harbor life with previous missions and analysis? There seems to be a general consensus on that possibility. It's confirmation that's lacking. Also, anything with a launch date of "TBD (sometime in the 2020s)" does not inspire confidence. Whenever the government wants to blue-sky about space exploration they fast forward to the magical 2020s or 2030s when everything will be possible and funded. Or, at least, a different, future bureaucrat will be responsible for the mission not happening. It reminds me of sitting in school and being told "by 1980 we'll have cities on the Moon."
    I guess what I'm getting at is I miss the mentality of the Apollo missions. Men on the moon, before 1970. Get it done. They didn't perform decades of concept studies in the 1960s, they made it happen before JFK's deadline. Sad to see that those days are pretty much gone. Their supposed slogan of "follow the water" is dubious because they have a big ball of warm water just sitting there and they won't get their act together to actually take a real sample from it. Let's just do some more endless concept studies.
    As I stated in a previous post, NASA did a good job with Cassini. Putting the Huygens probe on Titan was a great achievement. So perhaps they should carry that same level of innovation over to a Europa project.
  14. Sep 25, 2016 #13
  15. Sep 25, 2016 #14
  16. Sep 25, 2016 #15
  17. Sep 25, 2016 #16
    We will never hear the end of this one.
  18. Sep 25, 2016 #17
    In a few hours we will have the important announcement by NASA. Did you know there is a movie based on the Europa. It's called Europa Report. I just watched it now to get in the mood of the announcement.. the following is one half of the synopsis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_Report

    "Dr. Unger (Embeth Davidtz), CEO of Europa Ventures, narrates the story of the Europa One mission. Six astronauts embark on a privately funded mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter, to find potential sources of life.[4] The crew members are Captain William Xu (Daniel Wu), pilot Rosa Dasque (Anamaria Marinca), chief science officer Daniel Luxembourg (Christian Camargo), marine biology science officer Katya Petrovna (Karolina Wydra), junior engineer James Corrigan (Sharlto Copley), and chief engineer Andrei Blok (Michael Nyqvist).

    At twenty months, the ship lands safely on Europa, but misses its original target zone. The crew drills through the ice and releases a probe into the underlying sea. Blok, who is sleep-deprived and eliciting concern in the rest of the crew, sees a light outside the ship. However, he is unable to record it or otherwise convince the crew of its occurrence. The probe is struck by an unknown lighted object, and contact with it is lost.

    Petrovna insists on collecting samples on Europa's surface. After a crew vote, she embarks on a walk outside. Analyzing the samples, Luxembourg discovers traces of a single-celled organism. Petrovna sees a blue light in the distance and decides to investigate it. As she approaches the light, the ice below her breaks and she falls through. Her head-mounted camera continues to broadcast, displaying her terrified face as the blue bioluminescence is reflected in her eyes, before cutting out.

    The crew agrees to leave in order to bring their discovery back to Earth, but the engines malfunction. As the ship hurtles back to Europa's surface, Xu unbuckles from his seat to remove water shielding to reduce the impact speed. Remarkably, the ship crashes at the originally-targeted landing site. On impact, Xu is killed, and the ship is damaged, leaking oxygen and losing heat. It begins to sink into the ice.

    Blok and Luxembourg suit up to make repairs outside the ship. Luxembourg tries to descend, but falls through the ice. Blok knows that there is no chance that he alone will be able to repair the ship before it sinks. Instead, he manages to fix the communication system, at the expense of turning off the life support systems, just before the same blue light Petrovna saw approaches and he appears to fall through the ice as well."

    Just see the movie for the continuation to avoid spoilers or read the web if you don't intend to watch the movie.. or wait for NASA announcement before getting excited. The movie can make you be familiar with Europa and sending manned probes to it.
  19. Sep 26, 2016 #18

    Jonathan Scott

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    OK, the announcement was apparent plumes of water high above the surface. That should make it easier for future exploration probes to sample the subsurface water.
  20. Sep 26, 2016 #19


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    Article on the NASA site:

    NASA’s Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa (Sept. 26, 2016)
    ...and a 2 minute video clip:
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