BREAKING NEWS August Complex: 152 structures destroyed in Trinity County Full Story
SEVERE WX : Fire Weather Watch View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

The ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa has table salt, just like Earth's seas

Although Jupiter's moon Europa looks alien to us, it contains an ingredient familiar to us: sodium chloride, otherwise known as good ol' table salt.It...

Posted: Jun 13, 2019 9:47 AM

Although Jupiter's moon Europa looks alien to us, it contains an ingredient familiar to us: sodium chloride, otherwise known as good ol' table salt.

It's also a main component of sea salt. Europa is one of the intriguing water worlds in our solar system and potentially a place where life could exist in a subsurface ocean. The discovery of sodium chloride means Europa's ocean could look more like those on Earth and even possibly include salt. Now, astronomers may have to think differently about the composition of Europa's ocean.

Planetary scientists did a visible-light spectral analysis of the yellow spots on Europa to find the salt. A study published Wednesday in Science Advances sheds light on the discovery.

Previously, NASA's Voyager and Galileo spacecraft performed flybys of Europa, which led scientists to discover that the moon has a salty liquid water ocean beneath an icy shell. An infrared spectrometer aboard Galileo studied the shell and detected water ice and magnesium sulfate salts, which are similar to Epsom salts. It was believed that the shell was similar in composition to the same ingredients that made up the ocean.

"People have traditionally assumed that all of the interesting spectroscopy is in the infrared on planetary surfaces, because that's where most of the molecules that scientists are looking for have their fundamental features," said Mike Brown, study co-author and the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, in a statement.

But the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii provided new data with higher spectral resolution to show that the salts weren't magnesium sulfates.

"We thought that we might be seeing sodium chlorides, but they are essentially featureless in an infrared spectrum," Brown said.

Kevin Hand, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, took ocean salt samples from Earth and hit them with radiation to simulate what it might be like on Europa. The sea salt changed color and could be identified in the visible light spectrum as yellow.

This was similar to an area on Europa called Tara Regio, which has a distinct yellow color.

"Sodium chloride is a bit like invisible ink on Europa's surface. Before irradiation, you can't tell it's there, but after irradiation, the color jumps right out at you," Hand said.

Follow-up observations with the Hubble Space Telescope confirmed that the yellow color of Tara Regio was due to irradiated table salt on Europa's surface.

"Magnesium sulfate would simply have leached into the ocean from rocks on the ocean floor, but sodium chloride may indicate the ocean floor is hydrothermally active," said Samantha Trumbo, lead study author and California Institute of Technology graduate student, in a statement. "That would mean Europa is a more geologically interesting planetary body than previously believed."

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 790096

Reported Deaths: 15056
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2614466366
Riverside574191162
San Bernardino52649908
Orange522011128
San Diego44925760
Kern31509354
Fresno27769355
Sacramento21628383
Alameda20641374
Santa Clara20511297
San Joaquin19841415
Stanislaus16351337
Contra Costa15958201
Tulare15599256
Ventura12406143
Imperial11583314
San Francisco1080799
San Mateo9598143
Monterey955067
Santa Barbara8880110
Merced8750134
Kings743077
Sonoma7112114
Marin6591112
Solano617555
Madera439162
Placer348841
San Luis Obispo339327
Butte276435
Yolo275454
Santa Cruz22188
Sutter164210
Napa162613
San Benito131011
Yuba11187
El Dorado10734
Mendocino85118
Lassen7350
Shasta70914
Glenn5503
Nevada5116
Colusa5106
Tehama5094
Lake49210
Humboldt4856
Calaveras31114
Amador28616
Tuolumne2214
Inyo18714
Mono1652
Siskiyou1610
Del Norte1361
Mariposa752
Plumas490
Modoc240
Trinity150
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Chico
Broken Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 86°
Oroville
Clear
87° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 87°
Paradise
Broken Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 86°
Chester
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 72°
Red Bluff
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 82°
Willows
Broken Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 86°
A small trough of low pressure moved over the Pacific Northwest on this first day of autumn, and it brought more gusty wind and an improvement to the air quality for most of us. The breezes will continue through the week, and other changes are coming soon.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events