The NASA team can barely believe their eyes. There are unusual signals coming from the distant moon of Europa – just one of dozens of mysterious satellites orbiting Jupiter. And although the data has traveled more than 390 million miles across the Solar System, the scientists are unfortunately completely certain about what it shows: a vast plume has burst forth from Europa’s surface. Their hearts sink as they realize the crushing consequences this discovery may have for humanity.
Observed from below
The team were certainly in the best place to make their observations. They were at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii – which plays home to some of the largest telescopes on Earth. At an altitude of 13,796 feet, the facility enjoys unobstructed views of the night sky, free from light pollution and other atmospheric distortions.
A probe to Jupiter
And it’s no wonder the scientists are excited, as Europa could be hiding something that has the potential to completely transform our world. First, though, we need to know a little more. That will likely involve sending a probe to the distant Jupiter system — perhaps even landing on Europa’s surface.
One massive undertaking
Jupiter itself is no slouch, though. The Red Giant is huge, with a mass approximately two and a half times greater than every other planet put together. It’s also not a pleasant place to be. Jupiter’s atmosphere is gaseous and tempestuous, ravaged by storms and vortices, poisonous ammonia clouds and ferocious winds.
Reaching its core
Naturally, that makes Jupiter highly inhospitable and unlikely to harbor carbon-based life. Us humans wouldn’t exactly thrive there, either, and so it’s pretty much a bust as far as terraforming or colonization goes. But with all that said, scientists may still send a probe through Jupiter’s atmosphere to see if it has any surface at all – or just a core.