Journal Highlights

Seeking Salt That Surfaces from Europa’s Hidden Ocean

Research Spotlight—

Irradiation-induced color changes in sodium chloride could reveal whether it came from ocean water mixing with surface water, a key component of the moon’s potential to support life.

A vast, salty ocean likely lurks beneath the smooth water ice crust of Europa, the smallest of Jupiter’s four largest moons. Such an ocean could potentially harbor alien life, and mixing between ocean and surface materials would increase these chances. New research by Poston et al. shows that the color of sodium chloride could reveal whether it may have recently risen to the surface, a key sign of mixing.

The new work builds on a previous finding that Europa’s yellow-brown streaks could get their hue from sodium chloride that was discolored by exposure to radiation from Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field. Such exposure causes defects known as color centers in the salt’s crystal structure, altering its tint...more

-- Sarah Stanley, Freelance Writer,