Scientists have recently announced the detection of water plumes in Europa. This is after failed attempts since the 2012 observation of the moon. They were able to observe the plumes on 10 separate occasions over a 15-month span.
According to The Verge, the full findings will be published on Sept. 29 in the Astrophysical Journal.
Europa's Water Plumes
According to Space, the team was led by William Sparks of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. They used the Hubble Space Telescope, which successfully spotted plumes in January, March and April of 2014. It was when Europa had passed in front of Jupiter.
Apparently, the ultraviolet light from Jupiter was being blocked by plume material. The extreme capability of the Hubble telescope really helped Sparks and his team.
Sparks said that the water plumes appear to be real. This is based on the images Hubble has captured. He added that the statistical significance is actually pretty good.
NASA's Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz commented on the plume's existence. He said that this will increase their confidence in studying Europa's ocean. It likely confirms that water and other materials from its ocean might be on the surface. They could use the images in their research.
He also mentioned that they don't have to land and dig through those unknown miles of Europa's ice.
NASA is actually planning a mission to Europa in the 2020s. The said mission will make multiple flybys of Europa. It will attempt to learn more about the moon's ocean. That also includes the potential of Europa to support life.
More Observations On The Plumes
NASA's Europa program scientist Curt Niebur admitted they need more observations. He said that one of the biggest unknowns with the plumes is understanding their timing. They could use the Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope. It will allow them to construct a schedule for a close-ranged plume search.