The surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa features a widely varied landscape, including ridges, bands, small rounded domes and disrupted spaces that geologists call “chaos terrain.” Three newly reprocessed images, taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s, reveal details in diverse surface features on Europa.
Although the data captured by Galileo is more than two decades old, scientists are using modern image processing techniques to create new views of the moon’s surface in preparation for the arrival of the Europa Clipper spacecraft. The orbiter of Jupiter will conduct dozens of flybys of Europa to learn more about the ocean beneath the moon’s thick icy crust and how it interacts with the surface. The mission, set to launch in the next several years, will be the first return to Europa since Galileo.
Planetary scientists study high-resolution images of Europa for clues about how the surface formed. At an average of 40 million to 90 million years old, the surface we see today is much younger than Europa itself, which formed along with the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. In fact, Europa has among the youngest surfaces in the solar system, one of its many intriguing oddities.