Astronomy Picture of the Day
January 30, 2013

Europa's Ice Floes
Europa's Ice Floes

Credits: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona - Galileo Project - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/Lunar Explorer Italia/IPF

Jupiter's moon Europa, as seen in this image taken on June 27, 1996 by the NASA - Galileo Spacecraft, displays a few Surface Features that, in some areas, seem to resembe to Ice Floes (---> usually large, flat, and free masses of floating Sea Ice ) seen in the Polar Seas of our Home Planet Earth. Europa, which is about the size of Earth's Moon, possesses an Icy Crust that has been severely fractured, as indicated by the dark linear, curved, and wedged-shaped bands seen here. These Fractures have broken the Crust into Plates which are as large as 30 Km (such as about 18,6 miles) across. The Areas between the Plates are filled with Material that is probably Icy "Slush", contaminated with Rocky Debris. Some individual Plates were separated and rotated into new positions. Europa's density indicates that this Celestial Body has a shell of Water Ice thicker than approx. 100 Km (such as about 62 miles), parts of which could be liquid. Currently, Water Ice could extend from the Surface down to the Rocky Interior of Europa, but the Features seen in this image suggest that the motion of the disrupted Icy Plates was lubricated by soft Ice or perhaps liquid Water that was just below the Surface at the time of disruption.


This image covers part of the Equatorial Zone of Europa and was taken from a distance of approx. 156.000 Km (such as about 96.876 miles) by the Solid-State Imaging Subsystem onboard the NASA - Galileo Spacecraft. North is up and the Sun is nearly directly overhead. The area shown here is about 510 by 989 Km (such as approx. 317-by-614 miles), and the smallest visible Surface Feature is about 1,6 Km (approx. 1 mile) across.


This frame (which is the Original NASA - Galileo Spacecraft b/w image published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 00578) has been additionally processed and then colorized, according to an educated guess carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga (LXTT-IPF), in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Galileo Spacecraft and then looked outside, towards the Surface of the Jovian moon Europa), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among others, the existence of different Elements present on the Surface of Europa, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.



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