Reddish spots and shallow pits pepper the enigmatic ridged surface of Europa in this view combining information from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft during two different orbits around Jupiter.
The spots and pits visible in this region of Europa's northern hemisphere are each about 10 kilometers (6 miles) across. The dark spots are called "lenticulae," the Latin term for freckles. Their similar sizes and spacing suggest that Europa's icy shell may be churning away like a lava lamp, with warmer ice moving upward from the bottom of the ice shell while colder ice near the surface sinks downward. Other evidence has shown that Europa likely has a deep, melted ocean under its icy shell. Ruddy ice erupting onto the surface to form the lenticulae may hold clues to the composition of the ocean and to whether it could support life.
The image combines higher-resolution information obtained when Galileo flew near Europa on May 31, 1998, during the spacecraft's 15th orbit of Jupiter, with lower-resolution color information obtained on June 28, 1996, during Galileo's first orbit.
For Further Exploration
- NASA: National Space Science Data Center—Ice on Europa
- NASA: NASA and ESA Prioritize Outer Planet Missions
- Journal of Young Investigators: Lava Lamp Moon—The Search for Life on Europa May Just Have Gotten Easier
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry enigmatic Adjective
mysterious or puzzling.
to explode or suddenly eject material.
moon of Jupiter.
half of a sphere, or ball-shaped object.
Encyclopedic Entry: hemisphere ice Noun
water in its solid form.
Encyclopedic Entry: ice Jupiter Noun
largest planet in the solar system, the fifth planet from the Sun.
language of ancient Rome and the Roman Empire.
(plural: lenticulae) dark, reddish-colored spot visible on Jupiter's moon Europa.
(acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration) U.S. agency responsible for space research and systems.
large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.
Encyclopedic Entry: ocean orbit Noun
path of one object around a more massive object.
any area on the Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.
Encyclopedic Entry: region spacecraft Noun
vehicle designed for travel outside Earth's atmosphere.