The huge ocean sloshing beneath the ice shell of the Jupiter moon Europa may be intriguingly similar to the seas of Earth, a new study suggests.
Scientists have generally thought that sulfate salts dominate Europa's subsurface ovean, which harbors about twice as much water as all of Earth's seas put together. But the Hubble Space Telescope has detected the likely presence of sodium chloride (NaCl) on Europa's frigid surface, the study reports.
The NaCl — the same stuff that makes up plain old table salt — is probably coming from the ocean, study team members said. And that's pretty exciting, given that the saltiness of Earth's oceans comes primarily from NaCl.
"We do need to revisit our understanding of Europa's surface composition, as well as its internal geochemistry," lead author Samantha Trumbo, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, told Space.com.
"If this sodium chloride is really reflective of the internal composition,...