ScienceShot: Europa's Water Buried Deep Under Icy Shell

Sid is a freelance science journalist.

Jupiter's moon Europa harbors a planetwide ocean—hidden beneath several dozen kilometers of ice. Rising plumes of relatively warm, but still solid, ice may produce pockets of liquid water tantalizingly close to the satellite's surface, but new research suggests that any such surface reservoirs won't stick around for long, geologically speaking. Researchers modeled the density and viscosity of various water-ice mixtures to determine how quickly such a pocket of liquid water—which is substantially denser than ice—might sink. The water will migrate downward through slushy ice to the subsurface ocean within a few tens of thousands of years, researchers reported today at the European Planetary Science Congress in Madrid. Besides helping to understand Europa's water cycle, similar analyses could provide insight into processes on other geologically active icy moons, the researchers suggest, such as the geyser-spewing Enceladus.

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Posted in Space