NASAs Juno Offers HD Glimpse of Europas Frozen Surface

Jupiter’s moon Europa was captured by the JunoCam instrument aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft through the mission’s shut flyby on Sept. 29, 2022. The pictures present the fractures, ridges, and bands that crisscross the moon’s floor.

Picture information: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Picture processing: Björn Jónsson (CC BY 3.0)

Imagery from the solar-powered spacecraft exhibits some intriguing options on the ice-encased Jovian moon.

Photographs from the JunoCam visible-light digital camera aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft helps the speculation that the icy crust on the north and south poles of Jupiter’s moon Europa isn’t the place it was once. One other high-resolution image of the icy moon, by the spacecraft’s Stellar Reference Unit (SRU), reveals indicators of doable plume exercise and an space of ice shell disruption the place brine could have not too long ago bubbled to the floor.

The JunoCam outcomes not too long ago appeared within the Planetary Science Journal and the SRU ends in the journal JGR Planets.

On Sept. 29, 2022, Juno made its closest flyby of Europa, coming inside 220 miles (355 kilometers) of the moon’s frozen floor. The 4 footage taken by JunoCam and one by the SRU are the primary high-resolution photos of Europa since Galileo’s final flyby in 2000.

True Polar Wander

Juno’s floor monitor over Europa allowed imaging close to the moon’s equator. When analyzing the information, the JunoCam group discovered that together with the anticipated ice blocks, partitions, scarps, ridges, and troughs, the digital camera additionally captured irregularly distributed steep-walled depressions 12 to 31 miles (20 to 50 kilometers) large. They resemble massive ovoid pits beforehand present in imagery from different places of Europa.

This black-and-white image of Europa's surface was taken by the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU) aboard NASA's Juno spacecraft during the Sept. 29, 2022, flyby. The chaos feature nicknamed

This black-and-white picture of Europa’s floor was taken by the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU) aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft through the Sept. 29, 2022, flyby. The chaos characteristic nicknamed “the Platypus” is seen within the decrease proper nook.


This annotated image of Europa's surface from Juno's SRU shows the location of a double ridge running east-west (blue box) with possible plume stains and the chaos feature the team calls

This annotated picture of Europa’s floor from Juno’s SRU exhibits the placement of a double ridge working east-west (blue field) with doable plume stains and the chaos characteristic the group calls “the Platypus” (orange field). These options trace at present floor exercise and the presence of subsurface liquid water on the icy Jovian moon.

An enormous ocean is believed to reside under Europa’s icy exterior, and these floor options have been related to “true polar wander,” a principle that Europa’s outer ice shell is actually free-floating and strikes.

“True polar wander happens if Europa’s icy shell is decoupled from its rocky inside, leading to excessive stress ranges on the shell, which result in predictable fracture patterns,” mentioned Sweet Hansen, a Juno co-investigator who leads planning for JunoCam on the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “That is the primary time that these fracture patterns have been mapped within the southern hemisphere, suggesting that true polar wander’s impact on Europa’s floor geology is extra intensive than beforehand recognized.”

The high-resolution JunoCam imagery has additionally been used to reclassify a previously outstanding floor characteristic from the Europa map.

“Crater Gwern isn’t any extra,” mentioned Hansen. “What was as soon as regarded as a 13-mile-wide impression crater – one among Europa’s few documented impression craters – Gwern was revealed in JunoCam information to be a set of intersecting ridges that created an oval shadow.”

The Platypus

Though all 5 Europa photos from Juno are high-resolution, the picture from the spacecraft’s black-and-white SRU provides essentially the most element. Designed to detect dim stars for navigation functions, the SRU is delicate to low mild. To keep away from over-illumination within the picture, the group used the digital camera to snap the nightside of Europa whereas it was lit solely by daylight scattered off Jupiter (a phenomenon known as “Jupiter-shine”).

This modern method to imaging allowed complicated floor options to face out, revealing intricate networks of cross-cutting ridges and darkish stains from potential plumes of water vapor. One intriguing characteristic, which covers an space 23 miles by 42 miles (37 kilometers by 67 kilometers), was nicknamed by the group “the Platypus” due to its form.

Characterised by chaotic terrain with hummocks, outstanding ridges, and darkish reddish-brown materials, the Platypus is the youngest characteristic in its neighborhood. Its northern “torso” and southern “invoice” – linked by a fractured “neck” formation – interrupt the encompassing terrain with a lumpy matrix materials containing quite a few ice blocks which are 0.6 to 4.3 miles (1 to 7 kilometers) large. Ridge formations collapse into the characteristic on the edges of the Platypus.

For the Juno group, these formations assist the concept Europa’s ice shell could give method in places the place pockets of briny water from the subsurface ocean are current beneath the floor.

About 31 miles (50 kilometers) north of the Platypus is a set of double ridges flanked by darkish stains just like options discovered elsewhere on Europa that scientists have hypothesized to be cryovolcanic plume deposits.

“These options trace at present-day floor exercise and the presence of subsurface liquid water on Europa,” mentioned Heidi Becker, lead co-investigator for the SRU at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which additionally manages the mission. “The SRU’s picture is a high-quality baseline for particular locations NASA’s Europa Clipper mission and ESA’s (European Area Company’s) Juice missions can goal to seek for indicators of change and brine.”

Europa Clipper’s focus is on Europa – together with investigating whether or not the icy moon may have situations appropriate for all times. It’s scheduled to launch on the autumn of 2024 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030. Juice (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) launched on April 14, 2023. The ESA mission will attain Jupiter in July 2031 to review many targets (Jupiter’s three massive icy moons, in addition to fiery Io and smaller moons, together with the planet’s environment, magnetosphere, and rings) with a particular give attention to Ganymede.

Juno executed its 61st shut flyby of Jupiter on Could 12. Its 62nd flyby of the fuel large, scheduled for June 13, contains an Io flyby at an altitude of about 18,200 miles (29,300 kilometers).

Extra In regards to the Mission

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Analysis Institute in San Antonio. Juno is a part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Area Flight Middle in Huntsville, Alabama, for the company’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Italian Area Company (ASI) funded the Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper. Lockheed Martin Area in Denver constructed and operates the spacecraft.

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