The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has discovered water vapour erupting from the frigid surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, in one or more localised plumes near its south pole.
Europa is already thought to harbour a liquid ocean beneath its icy crust, making the moon one of the main targets in the search for habitable worlds away from Earth. This new finding is the first observational evidence of water vapour being ejected off the moon's surface.
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) astronomer Mike Brown and Kevin Hand from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have detailed the strongest evidence yet that salty water from the liquid ocean beneath Europa's frozen shell makes its way to the surface. The composition of this ocean may well resemble Earth's salty oceans. This new research suggests that there is a chemical exchange between the ocean and the surface, which makes the ocean a richer chemical environment. This exchange means that energy may be going into the ocean.