PROVIDENCE, R.I — New, closer-than-ever pictures of Jupiter's moon, Europa, bolster the theory that an ocean containing life exists beneath the moon's icy crust.
The pictures, taken by the spacecraft Galileo in December, show a 16-mile wide crater whose surface may have been created by water that rose from below and froze on the surface, scientists said Monday.
Also found were iceberg-like features surrounded by what resembles frozen slushy ice. Still another clue is an area of the moon's crust that has pulled apart and then filled in with a material, possibly from below, similar to what happens on the Earth's ocean floor.
"It's an incredibly exciting place because it has the potential to teach us about the origin of Earth and maybe even life," says James Head, a scientist at Brown University.
Scientists speculate Europa could contain life because it has the key ingredients: heat, water, and organic material from comets and meteorites.
Brown and Arizona State University are helping NASA analyze the photos, which are detailed enough to see a truck-sized object on Europa's surface.