If I tell you that there is a place where water forms ice in different shapes, some of which would not float but would sink in our oceans, would you want to go see it?
If I tell you about a place that does not get direct sunlight, but contains more water than two Pacific oceans together, would you like to visit it?
And if I tell you that there is a place where great mountains of ice eject, like volcanoes, rivers of water and plumes of gas that reach heights of more than 200 kilometers, and that in the guts of those volcanoes there could be life forms never seen before, Would you like to go and take a selfie there?
Unfortunately, we can't go to any of these places in person — yet — but this week the European Space Agency (ESA) will send the
Juice mission there.
and in about eight years he will begin to publish an irresistible tourist brochure of all those worlds.
The interplanetary ship
(yes, that exists in reality beyond movies like
), as the "Explorer of Jupiter's icy moons" is known, will be launched tomorrow Thursday aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from the ESA.
There will begin a journey to another world, Jupiter, which is currently 900 million kilometers away from us.
will travel a much greater distance, first spending six years close to us in orbits around the Sun close to those of Earth and Venus.
In fact, in January 2029
will pass just 4,000 kilometers from our planet and the Moon to set a final course for Jupiter with the aim of arriving there in July 2031. Those six years and various maneuvers known as gravity assist are necessary to accelerate the ship long enough to escape the inner Solar System, where the so-called rocky planets Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are located, and reach the largest planet in the Solar System, the gas giant Jupiter.
The largest mission to Jupiter searches for life in oceans buried under ice
mission will orbit Jupiter for three years, making flybys
its satellites Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.
It will approach them up to 35 times, taking great care not to suffer a mishap and hit Europe.
it must ensure that it has a less than 1 in 10,000 chance of impacting its surface, preserving it from biological contamination.
Finally, in 2034, it will orbit Ganymede, being the first human device to orbit a satellite other than the Moon.
The end of the mission is scheduled for the end of 2035, with an impact on the surface of Ganymede, which is not considered a star to be preserved by the COSPAR Planetary Protection Panel.
The journey will be incredible, but what exactly do you want to learn about these three moons of Jupiter?
The most important thing is to provide irrefutable evidence of the existence of oceans below the icy surface of the three Jovian satellites, as well as to determine what these large masses of water are like and why they are there.
Do they have salts, like the seas on Earth?
Where do they get the energy that keeps them in a liquid state and give rise to water volcanoes, the so-called cryovolcanoes?
Do those seas give the magnetic field measured on these moons?
it will also obtain data to determine the internal structure of Jupiter's large icy moons.
Our current models tell us that each of the three are slightly different.
Ganymede, the largest and most massive (they are different things!) satellite of the Solar System, larger than Mercury, but not as massive, appears to have an iron core, just like Earth.
But its global density is about a third of the terrestrial, so much of its interior must be made up of water in a liquid state, a great ocean.
It must also have water ice under great pressure, 10,000 times greater than the pressure our atmosphere exerts on the polar ice caps.
That ice must be quite different from ours, with a density 30% greater than terrestrial,
so that ice cubes would go to the bottom of a soda on Earth!
It is what is known as tetragonal ice or VI ice, different from our home ice, which is called hexagonal.
One of the images of Ganymede taken by the 'Juno' probe on June 7.nasa
In contrast to Ganymede, Juice
's second target
, the moon Callisto, which is only 1% smaller than Mercury, is a half-baked pie, it may not have distinct inner layers.
Its formation then must have been quite different from all the stars we are used to (all the rocky planets, the Moon, Ganymede, etc.), it did not give time for the densest material to go inside the satellite before it cooled. completely, which is the basis of what is known as differentiation.
Beyond understanding the internal structure, directly related to the formation processes of the satellites, and why they maintain internal heat when due to their size they should have cooled and solidified (as in the case of the Moon), Juice will also study the surface in
. of the icy moons
With all certainty, this scientific objective will give the most spectacular images of the mission.
In fact, some images may have details of just over two meters on Ganymede, something that is comparable to what we see with Google Earth in many areas.
It will be wonderful to see in detail the surface of Callisto riddled with craters almost as old as the Solar System, which form chains in places as if meteorites had fallen in clusters.
We will learn about the origin of one hemisphere of Callisto being darker than the other, the one facing the direction of movement, because Callisto always offers the same face to Jupiter, as also happens to us on Earth with the Moon, just the opposite. What happens on Ganymede?
passes close to Europa we will clearly see pointed structures called penitents, and fractures and grooves that are darker than the surrounding areas, which we now interpret as the effects of cryovolcano eruptions that gave rise to lava flows.
Although lava in Europe being water, should we say rivers of water?
They are of volcanic origin, so... Words fall short to describe the universe.
will also look for active cryovolcanoes and how Jupiter's icy moons maintain atmospheres, which, while tenuous, contain compounds as interesting and familiar to us as molecular oxygen or carbon dioxide.
The mission will not be left alone on the surface,
has a radar system capable of giving us information about what is under the icy crust of the moons, down to depths of about 30 meters.
Above all these questions, he will always highlight the most fundamental and transcendent issue.
Focusing primarily on Europa, where conditions are best suited, Juice will look at organic molecules, chemical compounds essential for the emergence of life, and how these might appear on icy moons with internal oceans and thermal activity (geothermal-like
that of the Earth, but originated in a very different way).
With this great objective we conclude, only emphasizing that most of the more than 5,000 exoplanets that we know of are Jupiter-type, where there can be and we know that there are moons like these that Juice will
Imagine the implications of what we learn about satellites discovered 400 years ago that we can visit today, though for now only with cameras and advanced scientific instruments like the ones on board
is a section in which our knowledge about the universe is presented in a qualitative and quantitative way.
It is intended to explain the importance of understanding the cosmos not only from a scientific point of view but also from a philosophical, social and economic point of view.
The name "cosmic vacuum" refers to the fact that the universe is and is, for the most part, empty, with less than one atom per cubic meter, despite the fact that in our environment, paradoxically, there are quintillions of atoms per meter cubic, which invites us to reflect on our existence and the presence of life in the universe.
The section is made up of
Pablo G. Pérez González
, a researcher at the Center for Astrobiology, and
, a researcher at the Center for Astrobiology.
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