Jupiter’s moon Europa is a cold, icy, and bright oddity in our solar system. Europa, roughly the size of Earth’s own Moon, is the smallest of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons, which can easily be seen with even the smallest of telescopes here on Earth. It is the second-closest of the Galilean moons to Jupiter after Io, which means it is bombarded with immense radiation from its massive parent planet. Europa is estimated to be 4.5 billion years old and is about 780 million kilometers (485 million mi) from the Sun. Europa orbits Jupiter every three and a half days at an average distance of about 671,000 kilometers (417,000 mi) and is tidally locked, meaning the same side of the moon always faces the gas giant. Europa is 3,100 kilometers (1,900 mi) in diameter, larger than Pluto, making it the 15th-largest body in the solar system.
Since Europa is rich with water ice, many scientists propose that it could host life, despite being incredibly cold. Also interesting is that Europa has a magnetic field, which means that something underneath its surface is conductive. Europa has long been an object of scientific curiosity for researchers on Earth. The Voyagerand Galileo spacecrafts each sent back detailed images of the moon’s strange surface, and future NASA missions to study Europa are planned. In this list, we review ten amazing facts regarding this weird and out-of-this-world moon!
1. Europa And Earth’s History
Galileo Galilei, one of the greatest early astronomers, first documented Europa on January 8, 1610. Europa, along with Io, Callisto, and Ganymede, came to be known as the Galilean moons.
Using a very low-powered telescope during the 17th century, Galileo likely had trouble distinguishing between the four moons he spotted as faint points of light near Jupiter. However, while Galileo’s discovery of four new heavenly bodies is, in itself, amazing, given the era and the early technology he was using, his findings were to have a profound influence on European history for centuries to come. The discovery of Europa, along with the other three Galilean moons, proved that our Earth was not the center of the universe, thus proving that everything in the night sky did not, in fact, orbit our planet.