UNITED STATES: A team led by the University of Washington may have unlocked the mystery behind the striking red streaks on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
The February 20th edition of the journal, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” published the results of the team’s experiment.
The team has long suspected that a frozen mixture of water and salts forms Europa’s red streaks. However, their chemical composition did not match any known earthly substance.
The team believes this most likely grows at the top and bottom of Europa’s deep oceans. They concluded their findings by lab-growing a novel solid crystal by combining table salt and water under extremely low pressure and temperature.
A hydrate is a rigid, salted, icy lattice that forms at extremely low temperatures and is held together due to hydrogen bonding between the atoms.
The only sodium chloride hydrate known previously had a simple composition: one salt molecule for every two water molecules.
However, the new experiment, which involved squeezing a small amount of salty water between two diamonds, produced two hydrates that were remarkably different from the previously known ones.
One had two sodium atoms for every 17 water molecules, and the other had one sodium chloride molecule for every 13 water molecules. This arrangement accounts for why the signals from the moons of Jupiter are “waterier” than anticipated.
In a press release, Baptiste Journaux, one of the leading authors, said, “It’s rare nowadays to have fundamental scientific discoveries.”
He felt that scientists have limited knowledge about the properties of salt and water beyond what is known about Earth’s conditions.
This discovery could benefit the upcoming missions to explore Jupiter and its icy moons.
The new varieties of salty ice could have implications beyond planetary science.
Journaux asserted that the new substances are also crucial for physical chemistry and energy research, which uses hydrates as energy storage.
The cold, high-pressure conditions achieved artificially in the lab would be a standard feature on Jupiter’s moons, where 5 to 10 kilometres of ice seas span several hundred kilometres.
This discovery could change the fundamental mineralogical research done in the 1800s but at high pressure and low temperature.
The team’s experiment could mark a significant breakthrough in scientific research and help unravel the mysteries of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
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