On September 29, the NASA Yoonna spacecraft will make its closest flight over Europe's satellite in more than 20 years, and the spacecraft will scan Jupiter's satellite to learn more about its ice crust, which contains the global ocean.
Europe is home to a giant underground ocean under an ice crust of several kilometres thick, which is one of the most promising places to look for extraterrestrial life, launched on August 5, 2011, and in the Jupiter system since 2016, the Yunon probe will soon leave Jupiter and Ganymede to make a new pass past Jupiter's satellite.
The polar orbit of "Unon" around Jupiter means that the probe will approach Europe under a steep slope, allowing the spacecraft to see the polar regions of the satellite for the first time. It is expected that during the passage of "Unon" only 355 km above the surface. The collected data can tell us more about the thickness of the ice crust and whether the underground pockets of liquid water can reach the surface.
For this purpose, the mission team will use a microwave radiometer of the probe. This device was originally designed to "see" under Jupiter's cloud. In this case, researchers will use it to drill Europe's crust by detecting its thermal radiation. These detections depend on the level of contamination in the ice. The cleaner the ice, the deeper the instrument can "see".
Most recently, the device was deployed during the last flight of Ganymede, the largest satellite in the solar system, and the data gathered confirmed that the ice bark of the satellite was very thick.
Confirming the presence of geysers?
The next flight of Yoonna, scheduled to take place on 29 September, is regarded by NASA as a "intelligence mission" for the next mission of Europe Clipper, which is scheduled to be launched in 2024 on the SpaceX missile. The probe, due to arrive in 2030, will make several dozen low-flying flights over Europe, which will be used to assess the depth and saltiness of the satellite's ocean, as well as for other purposes.
It is also suspected that water geysers are regularly exploding from the depths of the satellite. By 2021, scientists discovered that Europe has enough steam to fill the Olympic-sized pool in a matter of minutes, but the source of this water remains unclear, as scientists have not yet officially confirmed the existence of these geysers.
Note that last year, Yoonna's mission was extended to 2025, and its future remains uncertain because of Jupiter's radiation, and every time the probe reaches the nearest point on the planet, it receives a large dose of charged particles.