Image of the Day: Here's our best look yet at Jupiter's stunning moon Europa

Contributed by
Nov 25, 2014

Scientists believe Jupiter’s moon Europa could be our best nearby shot to find extraterrestrial life, and here’s a fresh look at the stunning heavenly body to reminds us all how beautiful the heavens can be.

The folks at NASA have taken a collection of high-res photos of Europa captured in the 1990s by the Galileo spacecraft, reprocessed them and assembled the separate shots into a connected mosaic to give us our best look yet at what Europa would look like if you were floating above it in a spaceship. Stunning, isn’t it?

Here’s how NASA describes the photo, which is striking due to the moon’s unique geology:

The scene shows the stunning diversity of Europa's surface geology. Long, linear cracks and ridges crisscross the surface, interrupted by regions of disrupted terrain where the surface ice crust has been broken up and re-frozen into new patterns.

Color variations across the surface are associated with differences in geologic feature type and location. For example, areas that appear blue or white contain relatively pure water ice, while reddish and brownish areas include non-ice components in higher concentrations. The polar regions, visible at the left and right of this view, are noticeably bluer than the more equatorial latitudes, which look more white. This color variation is thought to be due to differences in ice grain size in the two locations.

As Popular Science notes, Europa is so intriguing because scientists believe oceans several times deeper than the ones found on Earth are under the planet’s top layer of ice — with all that made even more unique by potential volcanic vents on the seafloor, which could all make underwater life a possibility. That’s right — alien fish.

What’s your take on the image? How long do you think it'll be until we lay eyes on this moon with real, human eyes?

(Via Popular Science)

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