Radiation Might Make Jupiter’s Salty, Icy Moon Europa Glow | Smart News

Jupiter sits in the hole of a giant, doughnut-shaped magnetic field swirling with charged particles that create intense radiation belts. The planet’s many moons are caught in the waves of radiation—and that might even make one of them glow, according to new research published on November 9 in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Researchers mimicked the cold, salty surface of Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon, Europa, using ice. When they exposed their frozen faux-Europa sample to radiation, it lit up, reports Science News’ Maria Temming.

Our moon appears bright in the night sky because it’s hit by sunlight, which it reflects down to Earth. The side without sunlight is dark. Europa, which is just a bit smaller than Earth’s moon, also has a sunlit side. But the other side might glow in the dark because of Jupiter’s radiation.

Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory figured this out because they created a device

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NASA says Jupiter’s funky moon Europa may glow in the dark

This artist’s illustration shows what Europa’s nightside glow might look like.


If you managed to get to Jupiter and then looked at the dark side of its moon Europa, you might be blown away by an ethereal glimmer. The fascinating icy moon may sport a glow-in-the-dark nightside triggered by blasting radiation. 

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have figured out what Europa’s glow might look like and how it ties into the composition of the moon’s ice. The team published a paper on the potential glow in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday.  

Here on Earth, we’re used to seeing our moon shining back at us as sunlight reflects off its surface. That’s not how Europa’s special gleam would work. Europa’s ice is likely mixed with salts (which we know as Epsom salt and

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Jupiter’s Moon Europa Glows In The Dark, Say Scientists

Jupiter is a powerful source of radio waves in the night sky.

When space agencies send spacecraft to the giant planet they have to make sure that their orbits are calculated carefully so that they don’t spend too long inside the radiation belts of Jupiter. The zone’s high-energy particles are just too much.

So what happens if you’re a moon in orbit of Jupiter having to constantly withstand a relentless pummeling of high-energy radiation?

You glow in the dark, that’s what.

New research from scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggest that Europa—the fourth largest of Jupiter’s 79 moons—may glow shades of green, blue and white even on its nightside.

The glow could reveal much about the composition of ice on Europa’s surface, say scientists—and the glow could be observed

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Jupiter’s moon Europa glows in the dark, scientists say

Intense radiation from the giant planet Jupiter causes the night side of its moon Europa to visibly glow in the dark – a phenomenon that could help scientists learn if it can sustain simple forms of life, according to a new study.

The findings, published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, were the result of experiments by NASA scientists to study how Jupiter’s radiation affects the chemistry of Europa, which is thought to harbor a subsurface ocean of water.

And though telescopes haven’t yet observed the glow, the possibility that Europa glows in the dark could be verified by two probes that will study the moon in the coming years.

The researchers built a below-freezing “ice chamber” at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to contain the chemicals thought to be on Europa’s icy surface and exposed it to a beam of high-energy electrons to simulate the radiation from

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Jupiter’s icy moon Europa may glow in the dark

Jupiter’s icy moon Europa could give the word “moonlight” a whole new meaning. New lab experiments suggest the nightside of this moon glows in the dark.

Europa’s surface, thought to be mostly water ice laced with various salts, is continually bombarded with energetic electrons by Jupiter’s intense magnetic field (SN: 5/19/15). When researchers simulated that interaction in the lab by shooting electrons at salty ice samples, the ice glowed. The brightness of that glow depended on the kind of salt in the ice, researchers report online November 9 in Nature Astronomy.

If the same interaction on Europa creates this never-before-seen kind of moonlight, a future mission there, such as NASA’s planned Europa Clipper spacecraft, may be able to use this ice glow map Europa’s surface composition. That, in turn, could give insight into the salinity of the ocean thought to lurk under Europa’s icy crust (SN:

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft spots ‘sprites’ and ‘elves’ dancing in Jupiter’s atmosphere

Just in time for Halloween, NASA announced results from the space agency’s Juno mission that suggest “sprites” or “elves” could be frolicking in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere. 

Named for mischievous fairy-like creatures from European myth, sprites are transient luminous events (TLE) seen from far above a lightning storm, including storms on Earth. Lightning triggers these TLEs, which brighten miles of sky above a thunderstorm and closely resemble a jellyfish. Each sprite lasts for only a few milliseconds, making them difficult to spot. 

Elves, however, aren’t named for the mythological creature. ELVES is an acronym standing for Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources, according to NASA. Like sprites, elves are triggered by lightning and occur high above the clouds. What sets them apart is their shape. Elves look like a flattened disk glowing in the upper atmosphere. Although they, too, appear for only a few

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Sprites are haunting Jupiter’s atmosphere, NASA spacecraft finds

Jupiter; Sprites; Space Fairies
Jupiter; Sprites; Space Fairies

This illustration shows the lightning phenomenon known as a sprite and what a sprite could look like in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Named after a mischievous, quick-witted character in English folklore, sprites last for only a few milliseconds. They feature a central blob of light with long tendrils of light extending down toward the ground and upward. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI

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Ghosts and spirits are common sights on Earth the week of Halloween, but it turns out apparitions appear exist on other planets too. (No, we’re not talking about aliens).

According to a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter saw sprites or “elves” are “dancing” in the upper atmosphere of the planet. In English folklore, sprites are supernatural quick-witted characters. In the natural world, sprites are unpredictable, bright, brief flashes of light—formally known as transient

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Juno mission observes ‘sprites’ dancing in Jupiter’s atmosphere

Blue sprites and elves have been detected twirling in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter by NASA’s Juno mission. While it may sound like something out of a fantasy novel, sprites and elves are actually two types of quick, bright flashes of light, or transient luminous events.

background pattern: A sprite is depicted at Jupiter in this illustration. Jupiter's hydrogen-rich atmosphere would likely make this luminous event appear blue.

© SwRI/JPL-Caltech/NASA
A sprite is depicted at Jupiter in this illustration. Jupiter’s hydrogen-rich atmosphere would likely make this luminous event appear blue.

Although these lightning-like flashes happen on Earth, this marks the first time these luminous events have been spotted on another planet.


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In European mythology, sprites are clever, fairy-like creatures. In science, they’re bright centers of light that are triggered by lightning and occur far above thunderstorms.

These phenomena occur on Earth, usually about 60 miles above large thunderstorms. Although the light from sprites brightening the sky can span 15 to 30 miles across, these flares last for just milliseconds. The

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Juno data indicates ‘sprites’ or ‘elves’ frolic in Jupiter’s atmosphere

Juno data indicates 'sprites' or 'elves' frolic in Jupiter's atmosphere
The lightning phenomenon known as a sprite depicted at Jupiter in this illustration. Jupiter’s hydrogen-rich atmosphere would likely make them appear blue. In Earth’s upper atmosphere, the presence of nitrogen gives them a reddish color. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI

New results from NASA’s Juno mission at Jupiter suggest that either “sprites” or “elves” could be dancing in the upper atmosphere of the solar system’s largest planet. It is the first time these bright, unpredictable and extremely brief flashes of light—formally known as transient luminous events, or TLE’s—have been observed on another world. The findings were published on Oct. 27, 2020, in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Scientists predicted these bright, superfast flashes of light should also be present in Jupiter’s immense roiling atmosphere, but their existence remained theoretical. Then, in the summer of 2019, researchers working with data from Juno’s ultraviolet spectrograph instrument (UVS) discovered something unexpected: a bright,

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Volcanoes Spew Sulfur Into Atmosphere of Jupiter’s Moon Io

Jupiter’s moon Io is a dramatic place — even though it’s just 1,131 miles across, or just a bit bigger than Earth’s moon, it hosts over 400 active volcanoes, some of which are as large as 124 miles across. These volcanoes spew out sulfur gases that freeze on the moon’s chilly surface and give it its distinctive yellow and orange color.

Another odd feature about Io is that it has an atmosphere, albeit an extremely thin one. At a billion times thinner than Earth’s atmosphere, it’s barely there, but it does exist and is composed mostly of sulfur from the volcanoes. But researchers weren’t sure about how exactly this atmosphere formed, so recent research has used Earth-based telescopes to examine this puzzle.

“It was not known which process drives the dynamics in Io’s atmosphere,” lead author Imke de Pater of the University of California, Berkeley, explained in a statement. “Is

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