Double lines on Europa’s ice surface may indicate pockets of water

The surface of Europa, one of Jupiter’s four main moons, is covered in a layer of ice 20 kilometers deep, marked by mysterious deep double lines called lines. Now, a new study comparing Europa’s surface to Earth’s icy crust of Greenland may shed some light on what those lines really are.

The moon Europa is covered in parallel lines hundreds of miles long. Each region of the satellite’s surface is marked with a crisscrossing matrix of these double lines, but scientists have never known for sure how they formed.

That’s where Greenland’s Double Ice Lines come in, which appeared almost a decade ago and hide large pockets of water just below the surface. Scientists traced Greenland’s ice layer using radar, and scans showed water below the lines.

“This is the first time we’ve seen such double lines on Earth,” Riley Kalberg, a Stanford University graduate student and lead author of the new study, told

Image by Judge Blaine Wainwright

Studying the Greenland lines, Kalberg and his colleagues hypothesized that the double lines on both Earth and Europa are formed by groundwater rising and refreezing through cracks in the ice surface. If the explanation is correct, it indicates that while Europa may have more than just a hidden ocean, the Moon may also have water in pockets just below the surface of the ice.

Finding these pockets of water could be another target for future probes to be sent to the moon Europa, such as NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, due to launch in 2024.


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About the Author: Tad Fisher

Prone to fits of apathy. Music specialist. Extreme food enthusiast. Amateur problem solver.

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