Astronomy Picture of the Day
February 1, 2013

Features of the Northern Regions of Europa
Features of the Northern Regions of Europa

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

In this four-frames mosaic of images of Jupiter's moon Europa - frames taken by the NASA - Galileo Spacecraft - dark crisscrossing Bands representing a widespread disruption of the Surface of Europa from fracturing and, at the same time, the possible eruption of Gases and other (still unidentified) Rocky Material from the moon's interior, can be seen. These and other Surface Features suggest that soft Ice, or perhaps Liquid Water, was present just below the Ice Crust at the time of disruption. However, it has to be underlined that all the so far available data do not rule out the possibility that such conditions still exist on Europa today.

The four pictures forming this image-mosaic were taken from a distance of approx. 156.000 Km (such as about 96.876 miles) on June 27, 1996. Many of the visible dark Bands are more than 1600 Km (about 993,6 miles) long (which means that they exceed the length of the San Andreas Fault of California). Furthermore, some of the Surface Features seen on the mosaic resulted from Meteoritic Impact, including an approx. 30-Km (18,63 miles) diameter Impact Crater visible as a bright scar at about 4 o'clock (midddle/lower right side the picture). In addition, dozens of (perhaps shallow) round Surface Features visible in some Terrains located along the Sunset Terminator Zone (upper right shadowed area of the image) are, probably, Impact Craters. However, several other areas which are also positioned along the Terminator Line, lack Impact Craters, thus indicating the presence of a (relatively) youthful Surface, which could likely be the final result of recent eruptions of Icy "Slush" from the interior of Europa (---> a phenomenon known as "Cryovolcanism"; notice that many evidences of Cryovolcanic Activity has been observed on several other icy moons of our Solar System, including - but not limited to - Titan, Ganymede, Enceladus and Miranda).

The lower quarter of the mosaic includes highly fractured Terrain, where the Icy Crust has been broken into slabs as large as about 30 Km (approx. 18,63 miles) across. The mosaic covers a large part of the Northern Hemisphere of Europa and includes the North Pole, visible at the top of the image. The Sun illuminates the scene from the left (Sx). The area shown here is centered at 20° North Latitude and 220° West Longitude.

This frame (which is an Original NASA - Galileo Spacecraft b/w image composite published on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal with the ID n. PIA 00295) 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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