Abstract: With its subsurface water ocean and relatively young icy surface Europa is among the top candidates in the search for habitable environments in our solar system. Existence of water vapor plumes on Europa has long been speculated and could possibly provide accessibility of subsurface liquid reservoirs.
Images of auroral emissions obtained in December 2012 by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) revealed coincident signals from hydrogen and oxygen pointing to the existence of transient water vapor near the moon’s south pole. The aurora is excited by impinging charged particles from Jupiter’s huge magnetosphere, which interacts with Europa’s atmosphere and interior water ocean.
Dr. Roth will provide an overview of the complex interaction between Europa and Jupiter’s magnetosphere, the generation of the plume aurora signals and our HST detection method, and the important implications of the plume discovery for the future exploration of Europa and its hidden water ocean.