Jupiter's moons habitable? NASA's Clipper and ESA's JUICE to find out | Tech News

Jupiter's moons habitable? NASA's Clipper and ESA's JUICE to find out

NASA’s Clipper and ESA’s JUICE will soon track signs of habitability on Jupiter’s icy moons. Here’s how.

| Updated on: Feb 17 2023, 22:38 IST
Best NASA Astronomy Pictures of the week: Comet ZTF, Hydra Galaxy Cluster, Airglow and more
1/5 Green Comet ZTF sweeps past Mars (Feb 13) - It is a picturesque image of Comet ZTF as it swept past Mars on February 10 and 11. Although the comet is no longer visible to teh naked eye, its picture was captured by astronomers as it appeared as a long faint object speeding away from the Sun. Its dust tail and ion tail were captured towards the bottom-right and the top of the image respectively. (NASA/Donato Lioce)
2/5 Heart and Soul Nebulae (Feb 14) - NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day on February 14 was a celebration of Valentine's Day in the form of the Heart and the Soul Nebulae which are located about 6000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Both nebulas shine brightly in the red light of energized hydrogen, one of three colors shown in this three-color montage. Light takes about 6,000 years to reach us from these nebulas, which together span roughly 300 light years.  (NASA/Juan Lozano de Haro)
3/5 Airglow (Feb 15) - NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day for Feb 15 was a stunning picture of Airglow in the skies over Château de Losse in southwest France. It wasn’t just airglow that was visible. Various celestial objects were also seen, including Orion Nebula, California Nebula, Andromeda Galaxy, Mars, Sirius, Pleiades Star Cluster and the Milky Way Galaxy.  (NASA/Julien Looten)
4/5 Hydra Galaxy Cluster (Feb 16) - Hydra Cluster of galaxies is one of the three large galaxy clusters within 200 million light-years of the Milky Way and it is surrounded by millions of stars. The galaxy cluster is over 100 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra. Three large galaxies near the cluster center, two yellow ellipticals (NGC 3311, NGC 3309) and one prominent blue spiral (NGC 3312), are the dominant galaxies, each about 150,000 light-years in diameter. (NASA/Marco Lorenzi/Angus Lau/Tommy Tse)
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5/5 Asteroid 2023 CX1 (Feb 17) - A 3.2 feet wide asteroid lit up the skies over Europe on February 12 as it turned into a fireball. The asteroid, named SAR 2667 or Asteroid 2023 CX1, turned into a fireball over the European skies where it was captured by astronomers and skywatchers. It was first discovered by Krisztian Sarneczky with a 2-foot telescope at Konkoly Observatory's Piszkesteto Station, located about 100 kilometers northeast from Budapest.   (NASA/Gijs de Reijke)
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Are Jupiter’s Moons habitable? This collaborative study of NASA's Clipper and ESA's JUICE will help to find. (AP)

Jupiter's large icy moons hold numerous secrets which are still unexplored. ESA's JUICE spacecraft, short for Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, is set to embark on a mission to visit the largest planet in our solar system. JUICE's journey to Jupiter will take a total of eight years, during which it will utilize gravitational assistance from Earth, Venus, and Mars to conserve fuel. While reaching Jupiter in July 2031, the spacecraft powered by the sun will use its 10 science instruments to investigate three of the four largest moons orbiting the giant planet - Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto - all believed to possess subsurface oceans, Scientific American reported.

However, among these moons, ESA's JUICE will primarily focus on Ganymede, which happens to be the largest moon in the entire solar system. ESA is not alone in pursuing exploration of the giant planet of the solar system. The report further mentions that the genesis of what would later become JUICE occurred through a collaboration with NASA known as the Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM) in 2008. However, funding issues later led NASA to pull the plug for EJSM. The project initially known as the Europa Multiple Flyby Mission was eventually renamed Europa Clipper by the United States, taking inspiration from the term "clipper".

Clipper and JUICE partnership

The international partnership between Clipper and JUICE was revived later. “To have two spacecraft in the same system will be really fantastic,” the report quoted Olivier Witasse at ESA, the project scientist for JUICE. A group of around 20 scientists from both missions virtually meet every week as part of the JUICE-Clipper Steering Committee, working to devise plans for how the two spacecraft can align their efforts upon reaching Jupiter.

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The plan is that following the arrival of JUICE into Ganymede's orbit in December 2034, it will conduct a comprehensive examination of the moon's surface and investigate its magnetic field. These critical tasks are essential for future endeavours to chart the inner aquatic layers of the moon. JUICE will begin its mission from a high position of 5,000 kilometres above Ganymede. Over a duration of nine months, the spacecraft will gradually decrease its altitude to a mere 200 kilometres above the moon's surface. And at the mission's conclusion in 2035, JUICE will deliberately crash into the surface to prevent the possibility of debris contaminating Europa.

Meanwhile, Clipper will perform a similar observation about Europa and its ocean.“It's a mini solar system. We're looking for potential habitats that can sustain life,” the report quoted Giuseppe Sarri, the project manager for JUICE at ESA.

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First Published Date: 17 Feb, 22:30 IST