Europa Spacecraft

Set to blast off sometime in the 2020s

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Europa mission spacecraft, which is being developed for a launch sometime in the 2020s. This view shows the spacecraft configuration, which could change before launch, as of early 2016.
The mission would place a spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter in order to perform a detailed investigation of the giant planet’s moon Europa — a world that shows strong evidence for an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust and which could host conditions favorable for life. The highly capable, radiation-tolerant spacecraft would enter into a long, looping orbit around Jupiter to perform repeated close flybys of Europa.
The concept image shows two large solar arrays extending from the sides of the spacecraft, to which the mission’s ice-penetrating radar antennas are attached. A saucer-shaped high-gain antenna is also side mounted, with a magnetometer boom placed next to it. On the forward end of the spacecraft (at left in this view) is a remote-sensing palette, which houses the rest of the science instrument payload.
The nominal mission would perform at least 45 flybys of Europa at altitudes varying from 1,700 miles to 16 miles (2,700 kilometers to 25 kilometers) above the surface.
This view takes artistic liberty with Jupiter’s position in the sky relative to Europa and the spacecraft. Credits: NASA/JPL/ESA

Space news (The search for life beyond Earth) – An artist’s rendition of the Europa spacecraft orbiting Jupiter

This 12-frame mosaic provides the highest resolution view ever obtained of the side of Jupiter’s moon Europa that faces the giant planet. It was obtained on Nov. 25, 1999 by the camera onboard the Galileo spacecraft, a past NASA mission to Jupiter and its moons which ended in 2003. NASA will announce today, Tuesday, May 26, the selection of science instruments for a mission to Europa, to investigate whether it could harbor conditions suitable for life. The Europa mission would conduct repeated close flybys of the small moon during a three-year period.
Numerous linear features in the center of this mosaic and toward the poles may have formed in response to tides strong enough to fracture Europa’s icy surface. Some of these features extend for over 1,500 kilometers (900 miles). Darker regions near the equator on the eastern (right) and western (left) limb may be vast areas of chaotic terrain. Bright white spots near the western limb are the ejecta blankets of young impact craters.
North is to the top of the picture and the sun illuminates the surface from the left. The image, centered at 0 latitude and 10 longitude, covers an area approximately 2,500 by 3,000 kilometers. The finest details that can discerned in this picture are about 2 kilometers across (about 1,550 by 1,860 miles). The images were taken by Galileo’s camera when the spacecraft was 94,000 kilometers (58,000 miles) from Europa.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory released this artists rendering of the Europa spacecraft, which is set to head to Jupiter sometime in the 2020s. The Europa Mission spacecraft configuration in early 2016 is shown in this image. The final spacecraft configuration at launch could easily be different, so stay tuned here for more news. The position of Jupiter in the sky relative to Europa and the spacecraft are also off in this drawing

This is an artist’s concept of a plume of water vapor thought to be ejected off the frigid, icy surface of the Jovian moon Europa, located about 500 million miles (800 million kilometers) from the sun. Spectroscopic measurements from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope led scientists to calculate that the plume rises to an altitude of 125 miles (201 kilometers) and then it probably rains frost back onto the moon’s surface. Previous findings already pointed to a subsurface ocean under Europa’s icy crust.
Image credit: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI

Two large solar arrays are shown extending from the sides of the Europa spacecraft to which the ice-penetrating radar antennas are attached in this artist’s rendition. On the side of the craft, a saucer-shaped high gain antenna is depicted next to a magnetometer boom. On the forward section is a remote-sensing palette with the remaining science instruments.

Jupiter’s moon Europa has a crust made up of blocks, which are thought to have broken apart and ‘rafted’ into new positions, as shown in the image on the left. These features are the best geologic evidence to date that Europa may have had a subsurface ocean at some time in its past.
Combined with the geologic data, the presence of a magnetic field leads scientists to believe an ocean is most likely present at Europa today. In this false color image, reddish-brown areas represent non-ice material resulting from geologic activity. White areas are rays of material ejected during the formation of the Pwyll impact crater. Icy plains are shown in blue tones to distinguish possibly coarse-grained ice (dark blue) from fine-grained ice (light blue). Long, dark lines are ridges and fractures in the crust, some of which are more than 1,850 miles long. These images were obtained by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft during Sept. 7, 1996, Dec. 1996 and Feb. 1997 at a distance of 417,489 miles.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

The Europa Mission profile has a very capable, radiation-resistant spacecraft traveling to Jupiter, where it enters into a long, looping orbit of the giant planet in order to perform at least 45 repeated flybys of Europa at altitudes ranging from 1700 miles to 16 miles (2700 kilometers to 25 kilometers) above its surface. Planetary scientists want to take a closer look at the evidence for an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell. An ocean of liquid water that could be the habitat of alien lifeforms we want to get to know better. 

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Astrophysicists Detect Mysterious Radio Emissions Emanating From Brown Dwarf Stars

Clues indicate “failed stars” generate Auroral displays a million times more powerful than on Earth 

This artist's concept shows an auroral display on a brown dwarf. If you could see an aurora on a brown dwarf, it would be a million times brighter than an aurora on Earth. Credits: Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech
This artist’s concept shows an auroral display on a brown dwarf. If you could see an aurora on a brown dwarf, it would be a million times brighter than an aurora on Earth.
Credits: Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech

Space news (August 16, 2015) – 18.6 light-years from Earth

Called “failed stars” because they don’t have enough mass to fuse hydrogen in their cores and being too big to be classified as planets, brown dwarfs have been a focus of study for astrophysicists because their atmospheres’ are thought to be very similar to conditions on many of the exoplanets we have discovered.

Studying the atmosphere of cool brown dwarfs is easier than trying to gather data on the atmosphere of an exoplanet. Light from the parent star interferes with the readings taken of the atmosphere of an exoplanet, making it harder to view through all the glare.

“It’s challenging to study the atmosphere of an exoplanet because there’s often a much brighter star nearby, whose light muddles observations. But we can look at the atmosphere of a brown dwarf without this difficulty,” Greg Hallinan said.

Astrophysicists studying brown dwarfs since the early 2000s using a trio of observatories have detected brilliant auroras dancing across the atmosphere of brown dwarf LSRJ1835+3259. Vivid red auroras, due to the higher hydrogen content of its atmosphere, estimated to be a million times more energetic than any viewed on Earth. 

This is a whole new manifestation of magnetic activity for that kind of object,” said Leon Harding, a technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and co-author of the study.

Auroras viewed on Earth are produced when charged particles, mostly electrons, from the solar wind strike atoms of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere above the poles, resulting in vivid displays of mostly green colors that dance across the sky.

As the electrons spiral down toward the atmosphere, they produce radio emissions, and then when they hit the atmosphere, they excite hydrogen in a process that occurs on Earth and other planets,” said Gregg Hallinan, assistant professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who led the team. “We now know that this kind of auroral behavior is extending all the way from planets up to brown dwarfs.

What’s next?

Astrophysicists will now continue their studies of brown dwarfs using the Astronomy Observatory Very Large Array in New Mexico, the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, and the Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California. Plans to map the auroras of LSRJ1835+3259 are being discussed to see if they can find the source of the solar winds generating them. Brown dwarfs don’t generate a solar wind like other stars, so they’re kind of at a loss at this point as to the source. 

My vote is for an orbiting exoplanet moving through the magnetosphere of LSRJ1835+3259 generating a current producing spectacular, vivid red auroras that light up the atmosphere. A show one of our robot explorers may view up close one day, but for now, astrophysicists will have to settle for studying it from a distance.

At the very least, studying brown dwarfs will help astrophysicists understand the atmospheres’ of exoplanets viewed during the human journey to the beginning of space and time, better. 

Hallinan and the rest of the team are also hoping to take a close look at the magnetic fields of exoplanets in the future. The Owens Valley Long Wavelength Array is coming online and plans are to take a few measurements of candidates in the Exoplanet Zoo.

You can learn more about NASA’s mission to the stars here.

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Learn more about the mission of the Palomar Observatory here.

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