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New Study Points at Europa’s Surface is Covered with Table Salt from its Hidden Ocean

A new study has found out that Europa, Jupiter’s fourth biggest satellite has an ocean with saltwater underneath its ice cover. The study was published on Wednesday Science Advances by a group of researchers at Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The study reveals yellow patches on the surface of the moon that indicate the signs of sodium chloride being present there. The presence of these yellow patches was first recorded by Voyager and Galileo aircraft by NASA. The patches recorded years ago were thus far highly ignored by scientists.

The watery ocean may contain the necessary elements to support life. The study reveals that the surface of the satellite contains a massive amount of sodium chloride, commonly known as table salt, that points at there being an ocean underneath. The ocean, therefore, might bear more resemblance to our own planet’s oceans.

In a press release, NASA’s Kevin Hand said, “Sodium chloride is a bit like invisible ink on Europa’s surface.” The astrobiologist also added, “Before irradiation, you can’t tell it’s there, but after irradiation, the color jumps right out at you.” Common white table salt was exposed to radiation in a laboratory that mimicked the conditions present at the moon for the research.

The color of the salt after radiation was found out to be similar to one present on Europa. The two colors were of the same shade of yellow that was recorded in between the years 1995 and 2003 when Galileo by NASA was sent on an imaging mission. The scientists took the help of Hubble telescope to make sure if the yellow shade on Europa gave the same chemical signal as the salt exposed to radiation earlier.

The matching of results indicates the tremendous amount of potential of the research as it sheds a considerable amount of light on the subsurface of ocean chemistry. This further confirms that the oceans of the moon may also be much more similar to that of our planet. Scientists are optimistic about the scope it can provide to draw resources or even settle there. The composition of the two salts still needs to be matched in order to give a definite result.

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