Europa, with its subsurface water ocean and apparent ingredients for life, is perhaps the most habitable environment currently known in our solar system beyond the Earth. Like the other Galilean satellites, Europa also possesses a tenuous atmosphere, which has been of greatest interest because it reflects the surface composition of the satellite, and therefore also potentially provides a window into the composition of its sub-surface ocean. The recent apparent detection of water vapor plumes near Europa’s south pole makes the connection between atmosphere and sub-surface composition much stronger and more direct. Both the nominal atmosphere and the plumes are detected via “auroral glow”, which currently provides one of the only techniques to remotely sense then from Earth. This talk will review the existing body of data about Europa’s atmosphere, aurora and plumes, and disucss how a future Europa Clipper mission might measure them.
Published on April 17, 2014
Speaker:Melissa McGrath (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL)