Fact Box “Europa”
- Moon of Jupiter
- 6th closest moon of Jupiter
- Smallest of Jupiter’s 4 Galilean satellites
- Discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei
- Slightly smaller than Earth’s Moon
- – Primarily made of silicate rock
- – Likely has an iron core
- – Thin atmosphere composed mainly of oxygen
- – Surface is composed of water ice and is one of the smoothest in the Solar System.
- 1610 – Discovered by Galileo Galilei
- 1979 – Studied by the Voyager mission
- 1989 – The Galileo mission was launched which provided the bulk of the present data that we have on Europa.
- 2022 – JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer), the next mission to Europa by the European Space Agency.
“Europa” is most promising in habitability in universe after Earth: NASA
As per NASA, Jupiter’s sixth closest moon Europa is the most likely heavenly body in the universe beyond the Earth that could be habitable. Europa which bears an ocean, a thin shelf of ice and oxidants on its surface is far more likely to be habitable than the desert-covered Mars, which has been the focus of recent exploration.
Europa’s evident youth and smoothness of the surface have led to the theory that a water ocean exists underneath it, which could possibly be a home for extraterrestrial life.
This theory suggests that the heat energy from tidal flexing is the reason behind the ocean to stay in liquid state and causes geological activity very similar to the plate tectonics.
- NASA is planning a new $2-billion exploration project called “Clipper”.
- The mission follows the success of Cassini, a probe that closely explored Titan, a moon of Saturn.
- NASA will send a spacecraft to Jupiter’s orbit and conduct a number of fly-bys to study Europa in its entirety.
- Clipper could be launched by 2021 and would take a further three-six years to reach Europa.
* As per scientists, Enceladus, the 6th largest moon of Saturn, could also be habitable.