Evidence of a plume on Europa from Galileo magnetic and plasma wave signatures

The icy surface of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, is thought to lie on top of a global ocean. Signatures in some Hubble Space Telescope images have been associated with putative water plumes rising above Europa’s surface, providing support for the ocean theory. However, all telescopic detections reported were made at the limit of sensitivity of the data, thereby calling for a search for plume signatures in in-situ measurements. Here, we report in-situ evidence of a plume on Europa from the magnetic field and plasma wave observations acquired on Galileo’s closest encounter with the moon. During this flyby, which dropped below 400 km altitude, the magnetometer recorded an approximately 1,000-kilometre-scale field rotation and a decrease of over 200 nT in field magnitude, and the Plasma Wave Spectrometer registered intense localized wave emissions indicative of a brief but substantial increase in plasma density. We show that the location, duration and variations of the magnetic field and plasma wave measurements are consistent with the interaction of Jupiter’s corotating plasma with Europa if a plume with characteristics inferred from Hubble images were erupting from the region of Europa’s thermal anomalies. These results provide strong independent evidence of the presence of plumes at Europa.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-018-0450-z

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