NASA are set to announce new findings about arguably Jupiter’s most fascinating moon, Europa. The announcement will take place at 14:00 EDT (19:00 BST) on Monday, 26th September.
"Astronomers will present results from a unique Europa observing campaign that resulted in surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa," said the space agency.
The teleconference, set to take place on Monday afternoon, will feature a number of prominent scientists at NASA. Participants will include Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division; Jennifer Wiseman, a senior Hubble scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, as well as William Sparks and Britney Schmidt, scientists from the Space Telescope Science Institute of Baltimore and the Georgia Institute of Technology, respectively.
The announcement sparked mass speculation on social media, will hundreds of people questioning whether the news may reveal extra-terrestrial life on Europa. However, NASA quelled such a suggestion shortly after, tweeting “Spoiler alert: NOT aliens”.
Although no further details have been revealed about what will be announced on Monday, the involvement of Hubble points towards the possibility that Europa’s plumes may have finally been spotted again.
It has now been almost four years since Europa’s elusive plumes have been observed. In December 2012, Hubble detected water vapor plumes reaching 120 miles (200 km) high above Europa’s south pole. Such a discovery prompted many scientists to argue that a robotic probe could now simply travel through the plumes, rather than having to drill through Europa’s icy surface.
“This means that future investigations can directly investigate the chemical makeup of Europa's potentially habitable environment without drilling through layers of ice,” Lorenz Roth of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said at the time.
Another sighting of the plumes will certainly help potential plans to fly through the plumes that could take place as soon as in the next decade.
What is for certain, the announcement will be sure to create a buzz! Be sure to tune in to NASA TV at 2pm EDT on Monday to watch the teleconference live.