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Hubble finds water vapor on the icy moon of Jupiter, Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system and possible location for alien life
- NASA has confirmed that water vapor is on Jupiter’s icy moon, Ganymede
- Researchers analyzed data taken by the Hubble Space Telescope 20 years apart
- Experts believe Ganymede’s temperature near its equator “becomes hot enough for the icy surface to release small amounts of water molecules”
- Ganymede’s surface temperature varies and around noon it can get hot enough for the icy surface to release traces of water molecules.
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NASA has confirmed that researchers found the first evidence of water vapor on Jupiter’s icy moon, Ganymede, after researchers analyzed data taken by the Hubble Space Telescope 20 years apart.
Experts looked at Ganymede’s ultraviolet observations taken in 1998 and 2010 by the Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and compared them to observations made in 2018.
STIS’s 1998 UV images showed bands of the Moon’s atmosphere that were similar to Earth’s auroras. There was a discrepancy in earlier observations which, at the time, believed scientists were due to higher concentrations of atomic oxygen.
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NASA has confirmed that researchers have discovered the first evidence of water vapor on Jupiter’s icy moon, Ganymede, after researchers analyzed data taken 20 years apart.
Experts examined Ganymede’s ultraviolet observations taken in 1998 and 2010 by the Hubble Space Telescope’s imaging spectrograph and compared them to observations made in 2018.
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Researchers believe that the temperature near the Ganymede equator “becomes hot enough for the icy surface to release small amounts of water molecules”
Experts looked at Ganymede’s ultraviolet observations taken in 1998 and 2010 by the Hubble Space Telescope’s imaging spectrograph (pictured) and compared them to observations made in 2018 by the Hubble Cosmic Origins Spectrograph.
Looking at the 2018 UV observations taken by Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), the researchers did not find much atomic oxygen in Ganymede’s atmosphere, meaning there was another due to differences in UV images of aurora.
Now they believe the temperature near the Ganymede equator “is getting hot enough for the icy surface to release small amounts of water molecules,” the European Space Agency said in a statement.
THE STORY OF GANYMÈDE
Since its discovery in January 1610, Ganymede has been the subject of repeated sightings, first by terrestrial telescopes, then by flyover missions and spacecraft orbiting Jupiter.
These studies depict a complex icy world whose surface is characterized by the stark contrast between its two main types of terrain – the dark, very old, and heavily cratered regions and the lighter, somewhat younger (but still ancient) regions marked by a wide variety of grooves. and ridges.
With a diameter of 3,280 miles (5,262 kilometers), Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury and the dwarf planet Pluto.
It is also the only satellite in the solar system known to have its own magnetosphere.
“So far, only O2 has been observed,” said lead author Lorenz Roth of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in a statement released by NASA.
“This is produced when charged particles erode the surface of the ice. The water vapor we have now measured comes from the sublimation of ice caused by the thermal escape of H2O vapor from hot icy regions. ‘
“Ganymede’s surface temperature varies greatly throughout the day, and around noon near the equator, it can get hot enough for the icy surface to release small amounts of water molecules,” ESA added. in its press release.
“In fact, the perceived differences between UV images are directly correlated with where water would be expected in the moon’s atmosphere. “
The Hubble Space Telescope is a partnership between NASA and ESA.
ESA’s upcoming JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission is expected to launch next year and arrive in Jupiter in 2029, with the potential to incorporate Hubble’s latest findings into its mission, Roth added.
“Our results can provide JUICE instrument teams with valuable information that can be used to refine their observation designs to optimize spacecraft utilization,” Roth added.
As part of JUICE’s mission, he will study the largest planet in the solar system, as well as three of its largest moons, “with a particular focus on Ganymede as a planetary body and a potentially habitable world,” added the ESA.
The results were published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.
The largest of the moons of Jupiter, Io, Europe, Ganymede and Callisto, are known as the Galilean moons, having been discovered by the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in January 1610.
Ganymede is not only the largest moon on Jupiter, but the largest moon in our solar system, and the only moon with its own magnetic field.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is still in operation and has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990
The Hubble Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 via Space Shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It is named after the famous astronomer Edwin Hubble, born in Missouri in 1889.
He is arguably most famous for discovering that the universe is expanding and the speed at which it is doing so – now coined the Hubble constant.
The Hubble Telescope is named after famous astronomer Edwin Hubble, born in Missouri in 1889 (pictured)
Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since the start of its mission in 1990 and has contributed to the publication of more than 15,000 scientific papers.
It orbits the Earth at a speed of approximately 17,000 mph (27,300 km / h) in low Earth orbit at approximately 340 miles above sea level.
Hubble has a aiming accuracy of 0.007 arc second, which is equivalent to being able to project a focused laser beam at Franklin D. Roosevelt’s head at a distance of approximately 200 miles (320 km).
The Hubble Telescope is named after Edwin Hubble who was responsible for the Hubble constant and is one of the greatest astronomers of all time
Hubble’s main mirror is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10.5 inches) in diameter and in total 13.3 meters (43.5 feet) long – the length of a large school bus.
The launch and deployment of Hubble in April 1990 marked the most significant advance in astronomy since the Galileo Telescope.
Thanks to five maintenance missions and more than 25 years of operation, our vision of the universe and our place within it have never been the same.