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Jupiter’s Moon, Europa Covered In Thick Snow: NASA

NASA plans to launch a mission called Europa Clipper in the 2020s.

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Jupiter, Europa, NASA
Ice blades cover Jupiter's moon Europa: Study. Pixabay

Jupiter’s ocean moon Europa is probably covered with blades of ice up to 15 meters tall in its equatorial regions, making alien life search difficult, NASA researchers have found.

The potentially life-supporting Europa has been studied by NASA, whose work has become more difficult due to the ice towers, Xinhua news agency reported.

Europa, Jupiter, NASA
Europa (Moon) · Artist’s concept of Europa and Jupiter , NASA

“Clearly, the paper suggests very strongly that the tropics of Europa are going to be spiky, and it would be unwise to plan to land there without a specially adapted lander,” said Dan Hobley, lead author of the study and a lecturer in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff University.

Jagged ice towers could also be found on Earth, especially in high, dry and cold tropical regions like the Chilean Andes. These ice towers are named “penitentes”, Spanish for “penitent”, because they often look like people kneeling in penance.

Scientists found that penitentes on Europa could be up to 15 meters tall, spaced about seven meters apart, while on Earth their height usually ranges from one to five meters.

Europa, Jupiter, NASA
These ice towers are named “penitentes”, Spanish for “penitent. IANS

 

“The Europa penitentes grow much slower than the Earth examples, but on Earth they might be restricted to a season or maybe two until they melt in summer or get covered in more snow, but on Europa, they are sat out in the sun growing for 50 million years,” Hobley explained.

Also Read: A Dozen New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter

NASA plans to launch a mission called Europa Clipper in the 2020s.

At a cost of $2 billion, the mission will “perform repeated close flybys of the icy moon from a long, looping orbit around Jupiter”, assess the possible landing site on Europa and try to seek out signs of life on the moon. (IANS)

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Scientists Analysing Images Taken by NASA of Vikram Moon Lander

Therefore, it could be difficult to identify right now (and it) may be a little longer before we have another opportunity

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Scientists, Images, NASA
But he added, "It is important to remember that the illumination conditions right now where the lander may be are harsh." Pixabay

Scientists are analysing the images taken under harsh light conditions by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Camera of the area where the Vikram moon lander is likely to have touched down on the moon and it may be a while before they can locate it, project experts told IANS.

LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Noah Petro, said on Wednesday that they were now analysing the images taken on Tuesday “and we will make a statement at some point when we can identify the lander.”

But he added, “It is important to remember that the illumination conditions right now where the lander may be are harsh.”

Therefore, it “could be difficult to identify right now (and it) may be a little longer before we have another opportunity to image the landing site next October 14” when the LRO next passes over that area of the moon.

Scientists, Images, NASA
Scientists are analysing the images taken under harsh light conditions by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Camera of the area. Pixabay

The principal investigator for the LRO camera, Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, said that the last image of the area was acquired on Wednesday and will take time to analyse as there are “lots and lots and lots of pixels” to go through.

A NASA statement carried a note of caution saying that when the LRO flew over the Vikram landing the “local lunar time was near dusk; large shadows covered much of the area.”

The LROC “acquired images around the targeted landing site, but the exact location of the lander was not known so the lander may not be in the camera field of view,” NASA said.

“The LROC team will analyze these new images and compare them to previous images to see if the lander is visible (it may be in shadow or outside the imaged area),” it added.

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Vikram lost contact with the Indian Space Research Organisation after it was launched by the Chandraayan 2 moon orbiter to touch down in the area of the moon’s south pole on September 6.

After following the intended trajectory, it deviated in the final moments during the last two kilometres of the descent and went silent.

Vikram carried a rover called Pragyan that was to have conducted experiments on the moon’s surface.

Aviation Week created some confusion on Wednesday with an erroneous headline, “NASA’s LRO fails to spot Chandraayan 2 Lander,” which was picked up by others.

Scientists, Images, NASA
LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Noah Petro, said on Wednesday that they were now analysing the images taken on Tuesday “and we will make a statement at some point . Pixabay

Both the scientists IANS spoke to said the headline was wrong.

Robinson said: “They are rather astonishing because we haven’t had the images to look at yet. I don’t know where that came from.”

Petro said, “The headline is wrong. That was actually posted even before we had the data on the ground.”

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The publication later changed the headline to “NASA’s LRO Begins Search For Silent Chandrayaan-2 Lander.” (IANS)