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Water Vapor Spotted on Jupiter’s Moon

Credit: NASA

Extraterrestrial life or just a burst water pipe?

Life, at least as far as our definition of it goes, requires several major elements to get rolling, one of the most important being water. This is why NASA’s always on the lookout for H20 content on our neighboring celestial objects; aside from just being interesting to study, the presence of alien water could imply an inkling of extraterrestrial life.

Yesterday, a team of astronomers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland confirmed the existence of water vapor jets on Europa, the frozen moon of Jupiter. It wasn’t just a mild drizzle, either; according to the team’s research, the collective water content of these jets could just about fill an Olympic swimming pool, which, lucky for us, was just enough to be seen from Earth. However, astronomers have been watching Europa for decades, and so far, only this one instance has revealed any water, so this likely a very rare event. Unless we can get a closer look at Europa, all we can do is theorize. Luckily, they’re working on that.

NASA has a mission in the pipeline for as soon as 2023 named “Europa Clipper.” A spacecraft armed with a bevy of cameras, radars, and spectrometers will be launched into Europa’s orbit, where it will fly by 45 times, taking pictures and gathering data as it goes. NASA hopes that this information can give us some insight into the thickness and composition of Europa’s icy covering and, with any luck, the mysterious vapor jets.