If you're planning a trip to Jupiter's moon Europa, be prepared for a rough landing.
We haven't really seen any detailed images of Europa previously, so we can't say; but since these scientists claim that there's rock-hard ice there, it has to be there through a mechanism.
That's because Europa, like Saturn's moon Enceladus, features a vast subsurface ocean that could serve as a potential habitat for extraterrestrial life.
It is high on the list of targets for future interplanetary space missions. This process leaves behind distinctive, blade-like formations called penitentes.
Cold, dry, and still air.
In a new paper published yesterday (Oct. 8) in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers likened the environment at Europa to high altitudes on Earth.
A team led by scientists from Cardiff University has predicted that fields of sharp ice growing to nearly 15 metres tall could be scattered across the equatorial regions of Jupiter's moon, Europa. In 2020, a mission is also being planned for Europa which would take high resolution images of the moon's icy surface and investigate its composition and structure of its interior.
These unique formations occur when ice remains in direct sunlight for a period of time, causing patches to transform from a solid into a gas, resulting in "sublimation-sculpted blades", The Verge noted.
But on Europa, conditions are ideal for the formation of giant penitentes.
Led by Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii and Brown University, and including Richard Elphic from NASA's Ames Research Center, the team used data from NASA's "Moon Mineralogy Mapper" (M3) to spot the ice. Unlike on Hoth, where life thrives on the icy surface, life on Europa would thrive in the ocean beneath its frigid surface - but evidence for it might be just beyond the reach of our experiments. It is believed a landing mission could follow soon after.
"If there are plumes on Europa, as we now strongly suspect, with the Europa Clipper we will be ready for them", said Jim Green, Director of Planetary Science, at NASA Headquarters.