Why Jupiter’s Europa moon could be straight out of Game of Thrones

James Marshall
October 11, 2018

Any robotic spacecraft landing on the moon will have to navigate its way around lethal obstacles, a new study suggests.

If you're planning a trip to Jupiter's moon Europa, be prepared for a rough landing. When ice is exposed to the elements for long periods of time - specifically when it's bathed in sunlight but ambient temperature remains well below freezing - it tends to form valleys and peaks which become more pointed and "sharp" over time.

The ice-covered world hides a vast ocean beneath its surface, and cracks in its thick ice sheets regularly spew water out into space, teasing us with the possibility that something lives far below.

In order to explore the always been attracting the attention of scholars the moons of Jupiter, NASA is preparing to launch a mission to Europa Lander.

A team led by scientists at Cardiff University predicts shards of ice could be scattered across the surface.

Known as penitentes, these sublimation-sculpted blades grow to between 3 to 16 feet (1-5 m) tall, but they are restricted to high-altitude tropical and subtropical conditions, such as in the Andes.

Cold, dry, and still air. In 2020, a mission is also being planned for Europa which would take high resolution images of the moon's icy surface and investigate its composition and structure of its interior.

Self-organized surface patterning is ubiquitous in terrestrial snow and ice during ablation by radiative heating, through both sublimation and melting.

It has the thermal conditions needed for ice to sublime without melting; and there is very little variation in the angle in which the Sun shines on the surface. Unlike on Hoth, where life thrives on the icy surface, life on Europa would thrive in the ocean beneath its frigid surface - but evidence for it might be just beyond the reach of our experiments.

The research is reported in the journal Nature Geoscience.

And as the new study shows, these areas are less likely to host those hazardous icy spikes. It is believed a landing mission could follow soon after. NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft is scheduled to launch at some point between 2022 and 2025.

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