Getting Closer to Europa

Jupiter's moon Europa was a hot topic at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Europa has received renewed attention in recent years, as scientists have used new data to clarify their assumptions about the intriguing moon.

There's a clear consensus now that Europa hides an ocean beneath an icy shell, and now scientists are planning new experiments designed to discover more about the alien world. For example, a radar survey conducted by an orbiter could tell them whether the ice above that ocean is thick or thin. This, in turn, might help them plan future missions down into the watery depths.

This sort of robotic adventure still appears to be a long way off, but that hasn't stopped some researchers from planning ahead. For the ultimate Europa payoff, though, take a look at the end of James Cameron's documentary Aliens of the Deep.—Gregory Mone

(Image credit: NASA/JPL)