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Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, is a unique world unlike any other planet moon in the solar system. Using high-resolution photographs captured by the Galileo spacecraft, NASA was able to remaster an image of Europa offering the world a new look at the beautiful, icy moon.
Other versions of the image were available, however, only in mosaic view. Granted, the image showed Jupiter’s moon in enhanced colors, but it did little to correctly portray details of the unique celestial body. So NASA specialists began assembling the photographs taken by Galileo so as to create a worthy, realistic view of the moon’s surface.
Galileo’s photographs were gathered in 1995 and 1998, during its first and fourteenth orbit through the planet’s system.
Astronomers explain that the image is the closest we’ve ever gotten to how Europa would actually look like to the naked eye.
Everything from photographs captured in violet, near-infrared and green filters were used, so that the image could offer as much detail as possible. Experts then corrected and combined the filters to correct scattered light. By using wavelength calibration, the photograph was further processed. When gaps remained scattered across the moon’s surface, they were filled by using simulated color (scientists based the color on nearby surface areas).
This latest image can now more accurately show the unique geology of Europa, which is criss-crossed by countless, linear ridges and cracks. The long ridges are punctuated by disrupted terrain (a result of the ice crust breaking and re-freezing into different patterns).
Colors also greatly differ on Europa’s surface. These variations are due to differences in geologic feature as well as location. While blue areas are believed to be pure water ice, other colors (such as brown or red) suggest that the ice contains non-ice components.
The remastered image also shows both Polar Regions to the left and right side. As compared to the moon’s equator, Europa’s Polar Regions are significantly bluer. Experts believe that this difference is caused by grain-size differences in ice located in the two locations.
After accomplishing its mission, Galileo crashed into Jupiter’s atmosphere. The spacecraft aided astronomers in discovering a possible ocean underneath the moon’s icy crust as well as subsurface saltwater on Ganymede, Europa and Calisto.