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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
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An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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A Hidden Ocean on One of Jupiter's Moons?
12 December 1996 8:20 pm
Washington--Images from Jupiter's moon Europa released at a NASA press conference here today are wowing planetary scientists, who believe they are seeing yet more signs that beneath Europa's icy surface lies an ocean. An ocean--plus the hot, chemical-laden volcanic vents envisioned on any ocean's floor--could have produced life deep within Europa.
The Europa images are literally hot off the press--NASA received them only yesterday from the Galileo spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter. Describing the scene in the words of her young daughter, Arizona State University planetary geologist Kelly Bender says Europa's surface resembles "a person with the skin peeled off"--a sinewy mass of muscles and veins. More geologically speaking, the fine detail and optimal lighting of these best ever images revealed irregular ridges surrounded by dark material, as if volcanic eruptions had spewed debris to either side of cracks in the crust.
In another sign that Europa is still hot inside, perhaps even hot enough to be liquid, Bender pointed to dark bands with ridges down the middle and parallel lines on either side. To her, the ridges look suspiciously like Earth's volcanic midocean ridges, where melted rock wells up to form new crust that spreads away from the ridge. All this icy volcanism could be quite young, she added, given the dearth of meteorite impact craters on Europa. Only one crater, 3 kilometers in size, is obvious in the released image; the rest have presumably been erased by volcanic activity.
Planetary geologists won't have much time to ponder their enticing new images before Galileo swings past Europa next Wednesday. This time the spacecraft will pass so close that the image resolution will be 20 times better than in earlier images.