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Europe and the Striking Beauty of 50-Foot Tall Ice Blades



Daniel Hobley, a scientist at Cardiff University, and his colleagues using the Galileo spacecraft, a NASA mission that studied Jupiter and its moons between 1995 and 2003, to study sublimation rates on Europe. They subside the moon, sublimation which has been overcome by other phenomena, like a bombardment of tiny meteorites and particles from space, which smooth out the surface. But at the equator, conditions favored sublimation, which does the opposite.

To blossom, requiring dry air, cold temperatures, and sustained exposure to sunlight. Europe's equatorial regions provide all three. Here, the scientists concluded, a jagged terrain of four-story-tall spikes could emerge and survive.

These are, of course, only predictions. The most powerful ground and space telescopes, even Hubble, are not capable of resolving such surface details. The Galileo mission produced some stunning photographs of criss-crossing fissures in Europe's ice, but only from afar.

"I would hope it would be better to walk around on the surface-or, I guess, clamber around, given the spikes, "Hobley says. "A bit of a Google image search reveals some cool visualizations of the surface, but these are just assuming things like look like Antartica and Greenland.

NASA 's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is hesitant to put too much weight on the researchers' predictions. She points out that the Galileo mission has provided data on sublimation rates on a global scale, rather than a regional one. "It's a bit of a stretch to extrapolate that far," Phillips says.

NASA "That said, it's the only information we've got right now, so it makes sense to make a prediction and say, hey, these features are possible."

]you're planning another trip to the Jovian system. The planet is about to fly to the moon in 2020 to loop around the moon and investigate all sorts of features, from the icy surface to the flowing ocean underneath. The mission, known as Clipper, wants to be equipped with imaging technology capable of spotting the icy blades at the moon's equator.

Hobley and his fellow researchers suggest that penitentes on Europe could pose a hazard to other types of spacecraft, like landers. NASA has proposed a lander mission, but the concept is still being studied. If they are crowded around the equator, engineers could easily avoid them by landing somewhere else.


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