Water A World Away

Water plumes have been discovered on the moon Europa, hinting at a potential for life beyond Earth.

An image of the moon Europa.


An image of the moon Europa.

Ben Geist, Columnist

Europa is one of the 79 moons orbiting Jupiter. The moon was originally discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. According to NASA, Europa has one of the highest probabilities in our solar system of supporting life. Europa has a thick sheet of ice covering the surface, and NASA thinks it is possible that water is underneath the ice. In support of this claim, plumes have been discovered shooting water from the moon’s surface.

Europa, like many other moons, including ours, is tidally locked to the planet it orbits, which means that one side of it is always facing Jupiter. According to Space.com, Europa is 414,000 miles from Jupiter, which is fairly close compared to the other moons that orbit the planet. The four main moons of Jupiter, Europa included, are called the Galilean moons, due to their discovery by astronomer Galileo Galilei. According to The Australian Academy of Science, Europa and Callisto, another moon, are most likely to support life out of Galileo’s planetary discoveries. Scientists know the most about Europa and are focused more on studying it because of that fact.

The discovery of water plumes is significant because it is clear proof that water exists on Europa. However, this does not give any information as to the amount of water the planet contains. NASA stated that they are planning on experimenting with ice drills to dig into Europa’s thick ice sheet, hoping to uncover large quantities of water. The water plumes may give NASA the encouragement to go through with the huge project of uncovering what’s hidden beneath Europa’s surface.

According to NASA’s Solar System Exploration, NASA is planning on a future project called the Europa Clipper. It won’t drill into the ice, but orbit the moon giving a detailed diagnostic of the planet’s surface looking traces of a deep watery world. The Europa Clipper is scheduled to launch in 2025, giving us a better look at a nearby planet that could end up supporting our intergalactic neighbors.