NASA is holding a press conference this Thursday to discuss new findings from the Hubble Telescope and the Cassini Spacecraft.
These new discoveries will help inform future ocean world exploration - including NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission planned for launch in the 2020s - and the broader search for life beyond Earth
Image: NASA's Europa Clipper mission will sink a nuclear-powered robot beneath the ice on Europa to look for signs of life. Source: NASA
Purposefully vague, NASA is not giving away any clues as to why the press conference has been called. The conference will include experts across America. Many members form the Cassini team will be attending the conference, leading many to believe the announcement will have something to do with Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons is about 500 million miles from the sun. Under its icy exterior lies a vast ocean making it the best candidate for life. Many astronomers believe that the ocean touches the Moon’s rocky surface, creating all kinds of potential chemical reactions.
The announcement this Thursday may have something to do with the water plumes spotted on Europa in 2012- which the Hubble picked up using a spectrograph. The water vapour erupted from the plumes on the surface of Europa.
Image: Plumes captured off Europa by Hubble
'If those plumes are connected with the subsurface water ocean we are confident exists under Europa's crust, then this means that future investigations can directly investigate the chemical makeup of Europa's potentially habitable environment without drilling through layers of ice. And that is tremendously exciting.' Said Lorenz Roth from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonia.
Planetary scientist at Washington University believes the announcement will have something to do with these plumes, though he has no confirmation on what the conference will cover.
Stay tuned this Thursday for NASA’s exciting and curiously secret announcement.