Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

August 13, 1996

Europa's Surface
Credit: Voyager Project, JPL, NASA

Explanation: Voyager spacecraft images of Europa's surface, like the one above, are suggestive of sea ice on Earth. The criss-crossing dark streaks may indeed be cracks in its ice-covered surface caused by Jupiter's tidal stresses accompanied by the freezing and expansion of an underlying layer of water. This tantalizing prospect of oceans of liquid water beneath its frozen surface has helped make the smallest of the Galilean moon's of Jupiter a planned focus of the Galileo spacecraft's ongoing mission to explore the Jovian system. New Europa images and results from the Galileo mission were released today revealing details which further suggest that Europa's icy surface was once - and may still be - supported on slush or liquid water.

Tomorrow's picture: Galileo Explores Europa

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
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