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Jupiter’s icy moon Europa harboring clay-like material

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Jupiter’s icy moon Europa harboring clay-like material
Jupiter’s icy moon Europa harboring clay-like material

Washington – Researchers analyzing the data from NASA’s Galileo mission have found clay-type minerals at the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

This is the first time such minerals have been detected on Europa’s surface and it seems to have been delivered by a spectacular collision with an asteroid or comet.

The types of space rocks that deliver such minerals typically also often carry organic materials.

Jim Shirley, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, said that organic materials, which are important building blocks for life, are often found in comets and primitive asteroids.

Scientists have also long thought there must be organic materials at Europa, too, though they have yet to detect them directly. One theory is that organic material could have arrived by comet or asteroid impacts, and this new finding supports that idea.

Shirley and colleagues, funded by a NASA Outer Planets Research grant, were able to see the clay-type minerals called phyllosilicates in near-infrared images from Galileo taken in 1998.

Those images are low resolution by today’s standards, and Shirley’s group is applying a new technique for pulling a stronger signal for these materials out of the noisy picture.

The phyllosilicates appear in a broken ring about 25 miles (40 kilometers) wide, which is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) away from the center of a 20-mile-diameter (30 kilometers) central crater site.

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