Behold! Europa’s icy surface seen in its highest resolution ever

27 May 2015

NASA has released what can only be described as a breathtaking image of one of the most fascinating moons in the solar system, Europa, in its highest-ever resolution, as part of a 12-picture mosaic.

The incredible image of Europa was used to announce the range of instruments that NASA are sending as part of a future mission, which will conduct a number of fly-bys of Jupiter’s moon in a bid to analyse whether the icy planet is capable of harbouring life.

NASA has received 33 proposals from scientific bodies that want their instruments to be sent into the farthest reaches of the solar system, and will today announce which ones have made the cut onto a limited platform over the course of the three-year mission.

The image shown by NASA has been quite a number of years in the making, having been obtained on 25 November, 1999, by the camera on board the Galileo spacecraft, a past NASA mission to Jupiter and its moons that ended in 2003, with these images being taken at a distance of 94,000km from the moon.

According to NASA, Europa’s many linear features in the centre of the 12-frame mosaic and toward the poles may have formed in response to tides strong enough to fracture Europa’s icy surface.

Some of these features extend for more than 1,500km, with darker regions near the equator on the eastern (right) and western (left) limb believed to be vast areas of chaotic terrain.

Meanwhile, the bright white spots near the western limb are the ‘ejecta blankets’ of young impact craters.

To get an even closer look at Europa’s surface, click on the image to zoom in.

High res image of Europa

Image via NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Main Europa image via Stuart Rankin/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic