Space photo of the week: NASA sees a ‘Platypus’ move on Jupiter’s moon Europa | Space

What it is: Europa, Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon.

Where it is: About 417,000 miles (671,000 kilometers) from Jupiter and 500 million miles (805 million km) from the sun.

When it was shared: May 19, 2024.

Why it’s so special: Slightly smaller than Earth’s moon, Europa is more like a planet. It has a magnetic field, a tenuous oxygen atmosphere and a liquid iron core. It also has an icy shell 11 miles (18 km) thick that hides a salty ocean beneath.

Does that salty ocean bubble up through the ice? Yes, suggests a newly published image of Europa returned to Earth by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016.

A view of Europa captured by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 2000 (Image credit: ASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Juno’s ultra-sensitive Stellar Reference Unit instrument snapped an image during a close flyby on September 29, 2022, when the spacecraft passed within just 220 miles (355 km) of Europa’s ice shell. It was one of the first high-resolution images of Europa since NASA’s Galileo spacecraft passed by in 2000.

Related: NASA reveals ‘glass-smooth lake of cooling lava’ on surface of Jupiter’s moon Io

The black and white image — taken of Europa’s night side when it was lit only with light reflected by Jupiter — shows a feature nicknamed “the Platypus” (in a yellow…


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