Jupiter’s moon Europa glows in the dark because it is bombarded by radiation- Technology News, Firstpost


Scientists have found that Jupiter’s ocean-filled moon Europa shines even on its nightside.

An experiment conducted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, which recreated Europa and Jupiter’s interactions, made these new exciting finding.

As per a JPL  statement, Europa withstands relentless pummeling of radiation with Jupiter zapping Europa’s surface day and night with electrons and other particles, bathing it in high-energy radiation. Researchers found that as these radiation particles may be making it glow in the dark.

This illustration of Jupiter’s moon Europa shows how the icy surface may glow on its nightside, the side facing away from the Sun. Variations in the glow and the color of the glow itself could reveal information about the composition of ice on Europa’s surface. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to researchers, different salt compounds react differently to the radiation and emit their own glimmer. Researchers made use of a spectrometer to separate light into two wavelengths and connect the distinct signatures to different compositions of ice.

Most of the observations using a spectrometer on a moon-like Europa are taken using sunlight that is reflected on the moon’s dayside, however, the latest results illuminate what Europa would look like in the dark.

Speaking about their observations, Murthy Gudipati, lead author of the work stated that they were able to predict that the nightside ice glow could provide more information on Europa’s surface composition. According to Gudipati, how that composition varies could give scientists clues about whether Europa has conditions that are suitable for life.

Since Europa harbours a massive interior ocean, by analysing the surface, scientists can learn more about what lies beneath.

Scientists have earlier discovered that Europa’s surface could be a mix of ice and common salts such as magnesium sulphate and sodium chloride.

Researchers incorporated those salts into water ice under Europa-like conditions and blasted it with radiation to produce a glow. While that was not a surprise, JPL’s Bryana Henderson, who co-authored the research added that when they tried new ice compositions, the glow looked different. They pointed a spectrometer at it and each type of ice had a different spectrum.

According to researchers, Europa’s glow is caused by an entirely different mechanism.

Gudipati said that if Europa was not under radiation, it would look like our moon, dark on the shadowed side. However, because it is bombarded by radiation, it glows in the dark.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Updated: November 12, 2020 — 5:11 am

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