Because Europa is bathed in radiation trapped in Jupiter’s magnetic field, Europa Clipper’s payload and other electronics will be enclosed in a thick-walled vault. This strategy of armoring up to go to Jupiter with a radiation vault was developed and successfully used for the first time by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The vault walls – made of titanium and aluminum – will act as a radiation shield against most of the high-energy atomic particles, dramatically slowing down degradation of the spacecraft’s electronics.
For Europa to be habitable, it needs the essential building blocks for life including carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. Liquid water is essential for the complex chemistry that makes life on Earth possible. Many scientists predict a salty ocean lies beneath the surface of Europa which has more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined. While the icy moon of Jupiter is far from the sun, Europa gets the energy to sustain life from Jupiter’s strong gravity which creates tides that stretch and tug the moon producing heat. One of the most important measurements by the Galileo mission which previously explored Europa showed how Jupiter’s magnetic field was disrupted in the space around Europa. The measurement strongly implied that a special type of magnetic field is created (induced) within Europa by a deep layer of some electrically conductive fluid (like saltwater) beneath the surface, which interacts with Jupiter’s strong magnetic field.
The amazing work of Galileo
Peering through his newly-improved 20-power homemade telescope at the planet Jupiter on Jan. 7, 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei noticed three other points of light near the planet, at first believing them to be distant stars. Observing them over several nights, he noted that they appeared to move in the wrong direction with regard to the background stars and they remained in Jupiter’s proximity but changed their positions relative to one another. He later observed a fourth star near the planet with the same unusual behavior. By Jan. 15, Galileo correctly concluded that they were not stars at all but moons orbiting around Jupiter, providing strong evidence for the Copernican theory that most celestial objects did not revolve around the Earth. In March 1610, Galileo published his discoveries of Jupiter’s satellites and other celestial observations in a book titled Siderius Nuncius (The Starry Messenger).
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