Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is the subject of NASA’s latest image, one showing the moon bathed in a bright frosty blue glow. The image focuses on the ‘night side’ of the moon, the part that faces away from the Sun, revealing what its glow may look like as a result of the radiation from Jupiter.
Europa is, as NASA explains it, pummelled with high-energy radiation. The icy, salty surface found on Europa is irradiated and it glows as a result of releasing the energy as visible light. This part isn’t surprising, according to NASA.
The latest work reveals what that glow may look like, one influenced by the composition of Europa’s surface. Researchers found that different ice compositions would result in glow variations, something described as surprising serendipity.
The new study’s co-author Fred Bateman explained, “Seeing the sodium chloride brine with a significantly lower level of glow was the ‘aha’ moment that changed the course of the research.” The glow resulting from radiation means Europa looks quite different from our own Moon, emitting a glow continuously, including on the ‘night side.’
Europa is one of the multiple celestial bodies that have attracted attention from Earth’s scientists. In the next few years, NASA plans to launch a mission called Europa Clipper that’ll orbit Jupiter and conduct multiple fly-bys of Europa. Experts are currently evaluating whether the spacecraft’s instruments will be able to detect the moon’s glow.