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Freckled Europa
Freckled Europa (click to enlarge)

Freckled Europa
Date: 31 May 1998

In this view, which combines images and data taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft during two different orbits around Jupiter, we see reddish spots and shallow pits peppered across the ridged Europan surface.

The dark spots are called "lenticulae," the Latin term for freckles. Their similar sizes and spacing suggest that Europa's icy shell may be churning away like a lava lamp, with warmer ice moving upward from the bottom of the ice shell while colder ice near the surface sinks downward. Other evidence has shown that Europa likely has a deep melted ocean under its icy shell. Ruddy ice erupting onto the surface to form the lenticulae may hold clues to the composition of the ocean and whether if it could support life.

What Scientists/Engineers Say About This Image:

"Since water is a clue to habitability, water at Europa is so important. It has really become such a key observation."

--Robert Pappalardo: Senior Research Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

"Europa and the brown streaks -- what was that brown gunk? That was the big deal and that is one of the reasons why we want to go back to Europa."

--Fran Bagenal: Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder and Co-Investigator for the New Horizons Mission

(Read More of what Fran Bagenal has to say about this and other significant events by clicking here.)

Last Update: 2 Mar 2012 (AMB)

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Colorado

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Last Updated: 2 Mar 2012