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Does Europa glow in the dark?

19 Nov 2020, 11:34 UTC
Does Europa glow in the dark?
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This artist’s concept of Jupiter’s moon Europa shows how the icy surface may glow on its nightside, the side facing away from the sun. Variations in the glow and the color of the glow itself could reveal information about the composition of ice on Europa’s surface. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech.
New lab experiments that re-created the environment of Jupiter’s large moon Europa suggest that the icy world shines, even on its nightside.
As icy, ocean-filled Europa – one of Jupiter’s 79 known moons – orbits the planet, Jupiter bombards Europa’s surface night and day with electrons and other particles, bathing it in high-energy radiation. As the electrons penetrate the moon’s surface, they energize the molecules underneath. According to the new study, published November 9, 2020, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Astronomy, when those molecules relax, they release energy as visible light, making Europa glow in the dark.
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Variations in the glow and the color of the glow itself could reveal information about the composition of ice on Europa’s surface, say the scientists. That’s because different salty compounds react differently to the radiation and emit their own ...

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