Jupiter’s moon Europa ‘glows in the dark’ due to high levels of radiation

Jupiter's icy moon, Europa, considered one of only a few rocks in our solar system with the potential to host life may glow in the dark.

It has a ocean deep beneath a frozen crust which may contain salt, like Earth's, and plumes of water vapor have been discovered above the surface.

Scientists believe the moon may visibly glow green in the dark due to the high levels of radiation from the powerful magnetic field interacting with the icy surface.

Simulations in a lab found that irradiated ice emits a greenish light in a process called "electron-simulated luminescence."

"The night-time ice glow occurring on Europa may be very unique and unlike any other phenomenon in our solar system," the study said.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, reports CNN.

An upcoming mission by NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft, which is expected to launch later this decade, could observe the glow and map the chemical composition of Europa's surface by measuring how much ice glow is seen at different wavelengths, the authors of the study said.

The observations may allow scientists to determine what the moon's sub-surface ocean is made up of.

The interior could be made of oceans of liquid water that separate the rocky core and outer ice shell, according to data from NASA 's Galileo mission in the 1990s.

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"Imagine a full coconut, with its hard shell outside and then coconut meat (which are similar to Europa's ice shell) and then inside we have water in the coconut," he said.

"It is thought that this liquid ocean tens of kilometers beneath the ice shell could have (a)   habitable environment."

The Europa Clipper could launch as early as 2023, but a targeted launch date has been set for 2025.

It's expected to reach Jupiter's moon after seven years.

It'll carry cameras and spectrometers to capture images and determine the composition of the moon.

Also, ice-penetrating radar will measure the thickness of the ice shell covering the ocean, and help to look for subsurface lakes believed to be there.

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