The news that has been really big this week is that of NASA’s discovery of possible water spurts erupting from Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. The Hubble space telescope was ablt to take this composite image of Europa:
Not the most detailed image, but if you look at the lower left hand corner, in the seven to eight o’clock position, you will see what everyone is getting excited about. The lighter blue is what is believed to represent water. This data was gathered in an attempt to study Europa’s atmosphere by seeing how much of Jupiter’s light was absorbed by the gas. The water molecules would show up quite clearly in this method and that is what this light blue patch is demonstrating. If it is true, then it would be possible to collect water samples from Europa’s deep ocean, without having to dig through an unknown thickness of ice. In fact if the spurt is really coming out as far as shown in the picture it may be possible to collect a sample without even landing. This is another brilliant example of the Hubble space telescope serving a purpose way beyond its original work-plan. We won’t know for sure that it is water until the James Webb telescope can use its infrared cameras to assent to the water’s existence, but if it is we may be on track for finding proof for either the lack of or existence of life on an extraterrestrial planet.