NASA: Yeah, there's totally water vapor on Jupiter's moon Europa

We suspected it was there. Now we know for sure.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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Europa as seen by NASA's Galileo spacecraft.


Mars may be the charismatic kid in the solar system, but Jupiter's moon Europa is the alluring astro-crush of many scientists. Now we have one more reason to swoon over this moon: It for sure has water vapor.

NASA confirmed the presence of water vapor on Europa in an announcement on Monday. It's one more reason why we should be looking to this moon for potential signs of life beyond Earth.

Evidence suggests Europa is hiding a vast reservoir of liquid water under its icy surface. Occasionally, giant geysers erupt into space, but scientists couldn't prove those plumes had water in them. Until now. 

A team of researchers led by NASA  planetary scientist Lucas Paganini examined Europa using the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The team discovered water vapor only once over 17 nights of observations, but once was enough. "They detected enough water releasing from Europa (5,202 pounds, or 2,360 kilograms, per second) to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool within minutes," said NASA.

We will need to wait a little longer to more fully unravel Europa's mysteries. NASA is planning to send its Europa Clipper mission to the distant moon in the mid-2020s. 

"We are on the cusp of exploring what may be the best place in our solar system to look for life beyond Earth," NASA said. This latest Europa news makes the Clipper mission all the more exciting.

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