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NASA's Reprocessed Images of Jupiter's Moon, Europa, Show 'Chaos Terrain'

Image credits: NASA.

Image credits: NASA.

Europa's images usually show a thick, icy shell and dark tints in a lot of areas. The surface is covered with long grooves and etched in a zig-zag manner.

The solar system is a huge place, and every day, there is a new discovery about it.

NASA has recently released images of something we already knew, but was hidden in plain sights - terrain of Jupiter's moon, Europa.

The three newly reprocessed Galileo perspectives highlights the moon's "chaos terrain," which appears to be a cross between ice crystals, and frenzied scratch marks.

The image was first captured in the late 1990s, making them more than 20 years old.

With modern technology and photo processing methods, NASA revisited these old records to learn more about Europa's surface better.

Europa's images usually show a thick, icy shell and dark tints in a lot of areas. The surface is covered with long grooves and etched in a zig-zag manner.

NASA's reprocessed images show a 'crisscrossing bands,' as well as chaos terrain with blocks of cloth and ridges in which the crust has fractured. Each photo suggests a close-up look at these features.

"We've only seen a very small part of Europa's surface at this resolution. Europa Clipper will increase that immensely," said planetary geologist Cynthia Phillips of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena. As a Europa project staff scientist, she oversees a long-term research project to reanalyze images of the moon, says a press release by the space agency.

Planetary scientists study high-resolution images of Europa for clues about how the surface formed. At an average of 40 million to 90 million years old, the surface we see today is much younger than Europa itself, which formed along with the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. In fact, Europa has among the youngest surfaces in the solar system, one of its many intriguing oddities, the release states.

The long, linear ridges and bands that crisscross Europa's surface are thought to be related to the response of Europa's icy surface crust as it is stretched and pulled by Jupiter's strong gravity. Ridges may form when a crack in the surface opens and closes repeatedly, building up a feature that's typically a few hundred yards tall, a few miles wide and can span horizontally for thousands of miles.

In contrast, bands are locations where cracks appear to have continued pulling apart horizontally, producing wide, relatively flat features.

Areas of so-called chaos terrain contain blocks that have moved sideways, rotated or tilted before being refrozen into their new locations.

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