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Scientists to hunt for alien life on Jupiter moons

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European Space Agency

 

London: After a successful mission to Pluto last week, scientists are preparing to launch a probe to search for life on the icy moons of Saturn and Jupiter, media reports said.

Earlier this week, the European Space Agency announced that it would collaborate with aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus to launch a space probe in 2022 to look for extra-terrestrial existence on the four icy moons — Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and the ocean-bearing worlds of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto of Jupiter, the Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday.

Dubbed as the “Juice” (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) spacecraft, the mission will look whether the frozen worlds that surround the two giant gaseous planets could support extra-terrestrial life.

“All our current exciting and fascinating space missions have been dealing with either understanding the origins of life and our Solar System or finding exoplanets (planets that revolve around a star other than the Sun) that might host Earth-like planets,” Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert from Nottingham Trent University, was quoted as saying.

“But, life doesn’t have to exist on planets like Earth, it could also have developed in oceans within icy moons around Jupiter like gas giants,” he added.

It is hoped that micro-organisms or even fish-like creatures may be present in deep-water hydrothermal vents, known as ‘black smokers’, which are known to harbour life on Earth.

“Juice will be exploring the Titan and three Galilean moons of Jupiter thought to harbour oceans under their surface. It will give us a much better understanding what lies beneath the icy crust and how it could offer an environment for life to develop.”

The probe will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket which would spend seven and a half years slingshotting around Earth, Mars and Venus to pick up enough speed to get to the Jupiter system with as little fuel as possible.

For three and a half years, the spacecraft will sweep around the giant planet, exploring its turbulent atmosphere, enormous magnetosphere, and tenuous set of dark rings, as well as studying the icy moons — Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto.

The probe will start with Callisto before making two fly-bys of Europa, where it will study the icy surface.

 

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NASA’s Ralph Will Explore Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids In 2021

Ralph's infrared detectors are 2,000 pixels square, compared to New Horizons Ralph's 256 by 256, allowing for images with more detail.

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Wintertime ice growth in Arctic sea slows long-term decline: NASA. Flcikr

 NASA’s Ralph, one of the most well-travelled scientific instrument, is set to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids aboard the Lucy spacecraft in 2021, the US space agency said.

Ralph has made many discoveries since it first launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006. Given a name and not an acronym, Ralph enables the study of the composition and atmospheres of celestial objects.

In 2021, the Lucy spacecraft will carry a near-twin of Ralph, called L’Ralph (“Lucy Ralph”), to investigate Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which are remnants from the early days of the solar system, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

jupiter
Jupiter. Pixabay

The L’Ralph instrument suite will study this diverse group of bodies. Lucy will fly by six Trojans and one Main Belt asteroid, more than any other previous asteroid mission.

L’Ralph will detect the Trojan asteroids’ chemical fingerprints, the statement said.

L’Ralph allows scientists to interpret data provided by the Sun’s reflected light that are the fingerprints of different elements and compounds.

These data could provide clues about how organic molecules form in primitive bodies, a process that might also have led to the emergence of life on Earth.

L’Ralph needs to have many capabilities in a small, light body structure to keep the spacecraft efficient and the mission productive.

NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
L’Ralph needs to have many capabilities in a small, light body structure to keep the spacecraft efficient and the mission productive.Flickr

Its instrument suite contains the Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA), both of which are fed by the same optics, meaning that Ralph can observe both visible and infrared wavelengths.

These dual capabilities are what makes Ralph and its cousin L’Ralph so special, according to Dennis Reuter, the instrument principal investigator for L’Ralph.

“Most instruments can image visible or infrared wavelengths, but L’Ralph can do both,” said Reuter.

Also Read: Mars Curiosity Rover Returns Back To Work: NASA

Compared to the Ralph that flies with New Horizons, Lucy’s L’Ralph has enhanced technology. It can detect a broader spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, it has a moving mirror that reflects light into L’Ralph instead of requiring movements of the entire spacecraft.

Ralph’s infrared detectors are 2,000 pixels square, compared to New Horizons Ralph’s 256 by 256, allowing for images with more detail. (IANS)