Breaking the Ice

Close-up view of Jupiter's moon Europa. Processed by Gordan Ugarkovic.

Here’s a look at the frozen crater Cilix, a rare ice-filled dent in the scoured and resurfaced face of Europa. Taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 1998, this image has been reassembled from raw data and color-calibrated by Gordan Ugarkovic to highlight the surface detail of this fascinating frozen cueball of a moon.

Covered by a layer of ice, cracks and craters on Europa all exhibit a “filled-in” appearance, signaling that there may be an ocean of water underneath that wells up and freezes to create what is essentially the smoothest solid surface of any world in our solar system. Tidal forces from Jupiter may generate enough heat via friction to maintain a substantial subsurface ocean on Europa, and where there’s water and heat there may also be living organisms…but of course it’s way too soon to tell. Further exploration is needed – and planned – but needless to say this icy world is definitely on almost every planetary scientist’s short list of places to look for life.

Check out more images from Gordan Ugarkovic and the Galileo mission here.

Image: NASA/JPL/Gordan Ugarkovic