New pictures of Europa suggest oceans, possible life
January 17, 1997
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST
JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) -- New pictures of Europa,
taken by NASA's Galileo space probe, have scientists excited
at the prospect of an ocean on Jupiter's moon.
Pictures taken by the probe, which flew within 430 miles (692
km) of Europa on December 19 show a criss-cross of ridges,
craters and ice floes stretching hundreds of miles long.
Though they haven't been able to study the pictures in
detail, planetary scientists are able to say they detect
signs of ice-spewing volcanoes and shifts in the moon's icy
crust that are not unlike earthquakes.
The features provide evidence that water, heat and organic
compounds may have combined to create an environment suitable
for the start of life, Galileo scientists told a news
conference at NASA's Washington headquarters.
"I think Europa is an excellent laboratory for the existence
of possible life," said Jim Brown, a planetary scientist at
Brown University in Rhode Island. "It's got the ingredients."
Scientists are eagerly awaiting Galileo's closer look at
Europa. It will pass within 364 miles (587 km) of the moon on
Galileo, which was launched in 1989 and arrived at Jupiter in
1995, is making a two-year tour of Jupiter.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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