Ice Sea on Jupiter’s Moon Would Look Like Ocean on Earth.
The moon has a frozen ocean that has significant amounts of sodium chloride, the main component of sea salt.
Called Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon has a frozen surface that can hide many secrets, like a liquid ocean that could potentially host life. Now, a study published in the journal Science Advances says that the moon has a large amount of sodium chloride, the main component of sea salt, also known as the salt we consume at meals.
The discovery comes from observations conducted by the Hubble Space Telescope, in which researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have discovered that the yellowish appearance on the surface of the moon occurs because of the abundance of salt.
This strongly suggests that salt comes from the ocean below, which would make it similar in composition to our oceans.
Earlier observations made by the Galileo spacecraft pointed to sulfate salts on the surface of Europa, but there was no evidence that this salt originated from the large ocean below. So far.
“Sodium chloride may indicate that the bottom of the ocean is hydrothermally active,” said Samantha Trumbo, a Caltech researcher and lead author of the study. “It would mean that Europa is a planetary body geologically more interesting than previously believed.”
One of the problems with sodium chloride is that it is virtually invisible to astronomers; that is, it does not exhibit any readily identifiable spectral characteristics at infrared wavelengths. “Table salt is white and does not stand out in a visible spectrum,” explains Trumbo.
“But when it is bombarded with charged energetic particles, as we know it happens in Europa, it changes color and forms unique spectral signatures that we can see with Hubble.”
There are two missions scheduled to reach Europa and study it in more depth over the next decade.
NASA will investigate Psyche, an asteroid that would be a “dead planet.”
The solid body is located in the Asteroid Belt of the Solar System and can be a “corpse” made of metals like iron and nickel.
On January 31, 2026, a NASA probe will visit the Asteroid Belt, located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This is where Psyche is, an asteroid that may be the rest of a dead planet.
Scientists believe the rocky object is made of iron and nickel: when our solar system was still forming, the celestial body would have a circumference similar to that of Mars.
The asteroid has an estimated mass of 22 billion kilograms, which represents 0.03% of the Moon’s mass. This makes Psyche the 11th most massive asteroid in the Solar System, so it has hundreds of times the mass of other objects rocks of the Asteroid Belt, such as Ceres and Vesta.
The NASA spacecraft is expected to prowl Psyche for a few weeks and collect data on its age and how it was formed to understand the formation of the solar system’s planets better.
The probe development project is in its final phase, in which engineers are planning and creating pieces of technology: the various components will be assembled in 2021.
If all goes well, the mission will be launched into space in August 2022, will pass through Mars in 2023, and will approach Psyche after three years of journey, arriving in 2026.