Icy Worlds

Transient Water Vapor at Europa's South Pole

By Keith Cowing
December 14, 2013
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Transient Water Vapor at Europa's South Pole
Hubble Views of Europa's Geysers

In November and December 2012 the Hubble Space Telescope maged Europa’s ultraviolet emissions in the search for vapor plume activity.

We report statistically significant coincident surpluses of hydrogen Lyman-α and oxygen OI130.4 nm emissions above the southern hemisphere in December 2012. These emissions are persistently found in the same area over ~7 hours, suggesting atmospheric inhomogeneity; they are consistent with two 200 km high plumes of water vapor with line-of-sight column densities of about 1020 m-2.

Non-detection in November and in previous HST images from 1999 suggests varying plume activity that might depend on changing surface stresses based on Europa’s orbital phases. The plume is present when Europa was near apocenter, and not detected close to its pericenter in agreement with tidal modeling predictions.

Transient Water Vapor at Europa’s South Pole, Science

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻