JUL 29, 2021 2:31 PM PDT

Hubble Spots Evidence of Water on Jupiter's Moon

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Scientists have spotted evidence of water vapor in the atmosphere of Jupiter's moon, Ganymede. The corresponding study was published in Nature Astronomy by an international collaboration of researchers. 

Scientists suspect that Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, has more water under its surface than the Earth's oceans. Due to the extreme cold temperatures on the moon, however, current theories hold that water could only reside 100 miles beneath it's surface. This would mean that there would be very little or no water vapor in the planet's atmosphere. 

Two images taken in 1998 by Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) contained colorful ribbons of electrified gas known as auroral bonds. While these UV observations could be partially explained by the presence of molecular oxygen, some features seemed to indicate higher concentrations of atomic oxygen. 

To see why this may be the case, in 2018 researchers set out to measure the amount of atomic oxygen in the moon's atmosphere usinga new data from Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph. After analyzing this data together with archival data from STIS taken between 1998 and 2010, they found that, contrary to previous thought, there was hardly any atomic oxygen in the moon's atmosphere. 

Upon closer inspection of the images, the researchers further found that the areas containing auroral bonds correlated with areas where small amounts of water vapor could occur. They note that Ganymede's surface temperature varies throughout the day, becoming hot enough at around noon near the equator to release small amounts of water molecules.

"So far, only the molecular oxygen had been observed," said Lorenz Roth, lead author of the study. "This is produced when charged particles erode the ice surface. The water vapor that we measured now originates from ice sublimation caused by the thermal escape of water vapor from warm icy regions."

The researchers say that their findings could be used to refine observation plans for future research via the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE), planned for operation from 2029. 

 

Sources: Nature AstronomyScience DailyNASA

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
APR 11, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Celebrating the International Day of Human Space Flight
APR 11, 2021
Celebrating the International Day of Human Space Flight
Earth's first satellite, Sputnik I, was launched into orbit on October 4, 1957. A few years later, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagari ...
MAY 17, 2021
Space & Astronomy
What is the Potential for Life on Mars?
MAY 17, 2021
What is the Potential for Life on Mars?
International organizations are pouring in billions of dollars to find signs of life on Mars. While some evidence points ...
JUN 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astrophysicists Discover Origins of First Structures in Milky Way
JUN 08, 2021
Astrophysicists Discover Origins of First Structures in Milky Way
A team of scientists led by the Centre for Astrobiology have discovered that the bulges we see in disc galaxies formed i ...
JUL 14, 2021
Earth & The Environment
High-Tide Flooding is Cause for Concern in the US
JUL 14, 2021
High-Tide Flooding is Cause for Concern in the US
High-tide flooding (HTF) is a phenomenon that typically occurs in coastal regions during the highest astronomical tides ...
JUL 18, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Climate Change has Tilted the Axis of the Earth
JUL 18, 2021
Climate Change has Tilted the Axis of the Earth
The axis of the Earth intersects the planet at the magnetic pole, and Earth's poles are known to wander. They can even f ...
SEP 06, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is Ready for Space!
SEP 06, 2021
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is Ready for Space!
With a long set of rigorous tests behind it, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), NASA’s next major space telesc ...
Loading Comments...