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Pictures support theory of water on Europa

Ridged plains
High-resolution image of Europa's ridged plains   
March 2, 1998
Web posted at: 1:29 p.m. EST (1829 GMT)

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (CNN) -- Newly released images of Jupiter's moon Europa -- the most detailed ever taken -- show more evidence that there is slush, and perhaps even water, beneath Europa's icy surface. The presence of water would increase the odds that life may have existed at some point in Europa's history.

The Europa pictures, from NASA's Galileo's spacecraft, were released at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and on the Internet site of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

An area where the icy surface seems to have been melted, broken, filled in, and moved
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An area where the ice has been broken into a complex pattern
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They were taken by the Galileo spacecraft during a December 16, 1997, fly-by and received on Earth in late February.

The new pictures include high-resolution views of rough, broadly scalloped icy cliffs on Europa as high as Mount Rushmore.

Other images show an impact crater named Pwyll and the so-called Conamara Chaos region, where icy plates on the surface have broken apart and moved around.

Computer generated model
Computer-generated model with a topographical perspective view of the Pwyll impact crater   

One large, icy fracture is big enough to be spanned by the Brooklyn Bridge.

Galileo, which was launched in 1989 and arrived at Jupiter in 1995, is making a two-year tour of its four major moons: Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede.

The Galileo mission is due to continue through December 1999.


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