Wallpaper Monday

Europa

What distant planet is covered with ice and vast liquid oceans, is active enough for the ice to be constantly renewed (thus erasing impact craters and creating a mostly smooth surface), yet has gigantic cracks and ridges that imply convection currents? Convection means heat, and heat + liquid water = prime candidate for life.

Well, it’s not a planet, and it’s not very far away (relatively speaking, of course). It’s Europa, one of Jupiter’s largest moons, and NASA recently released this splendid image to pique our imaginations. This is a mosaic made from photos collected by the Galileo probe in the late 90s, reprocessed to create a high-resolution image that shows the moon as we’d see it through our own eyes.

A little detail from NASA’s explanation:

Color variations across the surface are associated with differences in geologic feature type and location. For example, areas that appear blue or white contain relatively pure water ice, while reddish and brownish areas include non-ice components in higher concentrations. The polar regions, visible at the left and right of this view, are noticeably bluer than the more equatorial latitudes, which look more white. This color variation is thought to be due to differences in ice grain size in the two locations.

I can never look at Europa without thinking of Arthur C. Clarke and 2010: Odyssey Two (“ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE”). Despite the continued defunding of NASA and the downscaling of so many great projects, I still live in hope that in my lifetime, we really will attempt a landing there.

(Click the image to embiggen.)

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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7 Responses to Wallpaper Monday

  1. Karien says:

    That is truly amazing.

    Can I mention that I didn’t read Sci-Fi before reading WaF? Well, I read Ender’s Game in the 90s (before I found out what a raging homophobe Orson Scott Card was), but I really didn’t care for the genre.

    So thank you for making Sci-Fi interesting.

    • oregon expat says:

      You’re very welcome, and thank you for such a great compliment. The thing about sci-fi is that it’s such a broad genre, including so many types of narratives…when people say they don’t like it, what they usually mean is they haven’t yet found the type they enjoy.

      And just to whet your appetite…I’m currently wrapping up a huge rewrite of Without A Front, both to bring it in line with the new universe I created in The Caphenon, and to generally tighten it and make it better. It’s slated for release in two volumes in autumn 2015.

  2. JR says:

    NASA JPL published a nice video about Europa and its oceans in late November (http://youtu.be/kz9VhCQbPAk). And (at the risk of sounding like an advertisement for my employer), Caleb Sharf has a nice article on oceans, Europa, and other icy moons in the December issue of Sky & Telescope.

  3. xenatuba says:

    I believe that the de-funding of NASA is going to be one of our generation’s biggest mistakes. It is right there with letting the fossil fuels funded wealthy buy our congress out of climate change.

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