The soon-to-launch James Webb Space Telescope will turn its powerful eye on two of the solar system’s top nominees for hosting alien life: the icy moons Enceladus and Europa, relevant agencies confirmed in a statement this month.
Both Europa( a moon of Jupiter) and Enceladus( a moon of Saturn) are thought to possess subsurface oceans of liquid water beneath thick outer layers of ice. Both moons have also shown evidence of enormous plumes of liquid shooting up through fissures in the surface ice; these plumes could be caused by subsurface geysers, which could provide a source of heat and nutrients to life-forms there, scientists have said.
“We preferred these two moons because of their chances of exhibit chemical signatures of astrobiological interest, ” said Heidi Hammel, executive vice president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy( AURA ), who is leading an effort to use the telescope to study objects in Earth’s solar system.[ Icy Water Worlds That Might Host Life]
The James Webb Space Telescope, nicknamed “Webb, ” will capture infrared light, which can be used to identify objects that produce heat but are not hot enough to radiate sunlight( including humans, which is why many night-vision systems utilize infrared light ). Researchers are hoping that Webb can help to identify regions on the surfaces of these moons where geologic activity, such as plume eruptions, are taking place.
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