A recent report from the FECYT (Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology), the salts, water and gases dissolved in the huge ocean that researchers think might exist underneath the frozen crust of Europa can rise to the surface thus creating the unexplained geological formations related to the reddish substances pictured on Jupiter’s sixth smallest moon. Scientists at Centro de Astrobiología in Spain have confirmed this through a series of experiments conducted with carbon dioxide, magnesium sulfate and water.
NASA states that Europa is a frozen natural body orbiting the planet. It is significantly smaller than the Earth’s moon. The scientists consider it unique because they believe it has a “global ocean of water” and “a rocky seafloor.” Proving the ocean’s existence is important as it would mean that Europa could be a good place to consider looking for life outside Earth.
Researchers surmise that storehouses of liquid water are present under the frozen surface of Europa. This theory came about from a study of data gathered on the Galileo and Voyager missions. Scientists also discovered “chaotic” terrains and fractures related to red-tinted material which contrasts with the white of the surface’s water ice.
The researchers state that some of the geological formations look as if they’re related to the ascension of fluid originating from inside. The information gathered also indicates that the red substances are hydrated salts or magnesium sulfate. They also established the presence of such charged compounds as sulfur dioxide, hydrogen peroxide and carbon dioxide.
Scientists at Centro de Astrobiología came up with a specific laboratory simulation to determine how these fluids develop between the moon’s surface and the deep reservoirs. Specifically, they recreated the high pressure and the low temperature (approximately -4 ºC). They then watched what happened to a liquid solution carbon dioxide and magnesium sulfate when it emerged and cooled.
It was determined that the red tint of these geological structures are produced by the salts changing from the powerful irradiation of Jupiter’s charged particles, creating sulfurous compounds. Victoria Muñoz Iglesias, coauthor of an article in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta said: “Just like Earth’s magma emerges to the surface, a similar phenomenon could occur in Europa. Although, in this case it would be a watery cryomagma that would evolve and emerge outwards from the interior of the icy moon.”
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)