What the Hubble Saw Shooting Up on Jupiter Moon
Search for life on Europa could be easier than expected
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 27, 2016 1:11 AM CDT
This image provided by NASA shows a composite image of possible water plumes on the south pole of Jupiter's moon Europa.   (NASA)

(Newser) – The Hubble Space Telescope has spied what appear to be water plumes on one of Jupiter's icy moons shooting up as high as 125 miles. The geysers are apparently from an underground ocean that's thought to exist on Europa, considered one of the top places to search for signs of life in our solar system, the AP reports. The plumes at the south pole were detected by the workhorse telescope as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. Scientists believe the eruptions on Europa are sporadic since they were only able to spot them on three out of the 10 times that they looked over more than a year.

Even so, the possible presence of plumes, which shoot up and rain back down on the surface, would "allow us to search for signs of life in the ocean of Europa without needing to drill through miles of ice," says an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute. NASA is drafting a mission to Europa for the 2020s that would involve putting a spacecraft in an orbit around Jupiter to make close flybys of the ice-encrusted world. The European Space Agency is planning to fly its own spacecraft to the gas giant around the same time to study its three largest moons—Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. (The Juno spacecraft has captured its best views of Jupiter yet.)