Scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have found that the radiation from Jupiter causes its icy moon to glow.
Our universe is vast and much of it remains undiscovered. Even in our own solar system, there is so much to see and learn about what goes on with our neighbors. In addition to the seven other planets and Pluto, we also share the solar system with these planets' moons. While we have only one moon, some other planets have multiple moons. Jupiter alone has a whopping 79 moons and among them, the most well-known of Jupiter's moons are Io, Europa, and Callisto. The moons are as unique as the planets are and have a lot of potentials when it comes to learning from them.
🌚☢️ As Europa orbits Jupiter, it withstands relentless pummeling of radiation. But as the particles pound the icy ocean-filled moon's surface night after night, day after day, they may also be doing something otherworldly: making Europa glow in the dark: https://t.co/LgaUpdVCt3 pic.twitter.com/t7uq4SBtmh— NASA (@NASA) November 10, 2020
Researchers have recently found that Europa, Jupiter's moon actually glows in the dark. In a statement released by NASA, scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California have managed to detail how exactly this glow would look like. Europa is a moon that is icy and ocean-filled. It withstands a ton of radiation from Jupiter, that sends electrons and other particles its way. So the moon is bathed in high-energy radiation and when the charged particles hit its surface it glows. The oceans on the moon are salty and different salty compounds react differently to the radiation and emit their own unique glimmer.
"We were able to predict that this nightside ice glow could provide additional information on Europa's surface composition," JPL's Murthy Gudipati, lead author of the research work that was published in Nature Astronomy stated. "How that composition varies could give us clues about whether Europa harbors conditions suitable for life." According to Space.com, the salty oceans on Europa's surface could mean that it has the potential to be habitable. As for the glow of the moon, scientists have been using a "spectrometer to separate the light into wavelengths and connect the distinct "signatures," or spectra, to different compositions of ice."
Plumes of water vapor that may be venting into space from Jupiter's moon Europa could come from the icy crust, according to new research. Scientists have considered the plumes a promising way to investigate the habitability of the icy moon. https://t.co/1Ki4MC4G3q pic.twitter.com/uQ7tW0T0b4— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) November 13, 2020
"But we never imagined that we would see what we ended up seeing," Bryana Henderson, who co-authored the research said. "When we tried new ice compositions, the glow looked different. And we all just stared at it for a while and then said, 'This is new, right? This is definitely a different glow?' So we pointed a spectrometer at it, and each type of ice had a different spectrum." For this, the researchers observed the moon's dayside, when it reflected sunlight. But the new results also throws light on what Europa would look like in the dark as well.
"If Europa weren't under this radiation, it would look the way our moon looks to us – dark on the shadowed side," Gudipati said. "But because it's bombarded by the radiation from Jupiter, it glows in the dark." This means, other than being lit by the sun, Europa is also constantly glowing on the other side that is facing away from the sun as well. "It's not often that you're in a lab and say, 'We might find this when we get there,'" Gudipati said. "Usually it's the other way around – you go there and find something and try to explain it in the lab. But our prediction goes back to simple observation, and that's what science is about."