Strange Dark Lines On Europa Might Be Sea Salt

For more than 10 years, NASA scientists have pondered that Europa’s strange dark lines could result from, and now it has been discovered that they could be sea salt in an ocean below the surface of this moon of Jupiter that was discolored due to radiation exposure. The discovery of sea salt is considered to be a scientific adventure in the search for life on other worlds, since it may mean that Europa’s sea is interrelated to its surface, which could be a factor in whether or not there is life on the moon of Jupiter.

Radiation May Have Helped Create Strange Dark Lines of Europa

The research is being done by NASA scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. They already knew that Europa was being radiated due to the strong magnetic fields of Jupiter and they now believe the radiation could be part of what is forming the strange dark lines on Europa’s surface.

While in the past, scientists thought that the strange dark lines on Europa came from sulfur or magnesium, however, a new adventure in science and technology have been able to allow for new experiments that show that the strange dark lines could be irradiated sea salts instead. Sulfur could still be part of some of the various colors of the strange dark lines, say researchers, but only for the areas that are the youngest.

The new experiment involved chilling sodium chloride samples down to -279 Fahrenheit, or -173 Celsius, and then saturating them with electrons to create an atmosphere similar to the conditions on Europa’s surface. When they did this, the salt turned from white to a yellow-brown color, which is the same color as the strange dark lines of Europa. According to the scientists, this showed that it was a close match to the data on the strange dark lines that NASA has from their spacecraft missions.

Evidence Points to Ocean on Europa

Evidence has already shown that Europa likely has a liquid ocean under its surface. The ocean doesn’t freeze due to Jupiter’s gravity creating strong tidal forces that influence the liquid in the underground sea. Scientists have wondered if it is deeper than the oceans on Earth and whether or not there are conditions in Europa’s sea that could support life.
Europa was discovered in 1610 and it is the 4th biggest of the 67 moons of Jupiter and is about the size of the Earth’s moon. NASA has another Europa mission planned for 2025 to map the surface and further study these strange dark lines that have caused such wonder in our never ending adventure to study the cosmos.