Hubble sees more signs of Europa’s water

Europa plumes
These composite images show a suspected plume of material erupting two years apart from the same location on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. Both plumes, photographed in ultraviolet light by Hubble, were seen in silhouette as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. (NASA / ESA / STScI / USGS)

Scientists say Europa, a mysterious moon of Jupiter, has shown fresh signs of watery plumes that may hint at a habitable environment beneath the ice.

Last year, the Hubble Space Telescope picked up observations of what appeared to be a plume of watery material, emanating from the same area where a plume was spotted in 2014.

The most recent plume rises about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Europa’s surface, which is twice as high as the earlier plume.

The source of the activity is an unusually warm region of ice that appears to be crisscrossed by cracks, based on pictures captured in the late 1990s by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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