The lawmaker was in the middle of expounding on an annual preoccupation: Putting more money into a robotic space-exploration project expected to cost $8 billion or more by the time it launches sometime after 2022. The robot reached Jupiter in 1995 and orbited the gas giant and its moons, returning some of the most detailed and astounding data about the distant worlds.
For the new study, experts measured variations in the moon's magnetic field and plasma waves, based on data obtained during Galileo's close flyby, and found they were "consistent" with the spacecraft crossing a plume. As the probe dropped beneath an altitude of 250 miles, its sensors twitched with unexpected signals that scientists were unable to explain at the time.
The implications could be enormous. For example, NASA's Cassini spacecraft sampled plumes from Saturn's ocean-bearing moon Enceladus that contained hydrogen from hydrothermal vents, an environment that may have given rise to life on Earth.
The revelation has again emphasised the scientific consensus that Europa, which has a salty ocean twice the size of Earth's, could be home to extraterrestrial life. In fact, according to NASA, if the plumes are indeed spewing from the moon, the orbiter might sample frozen liquid as well as dust particles. But until now, solid evidence has been hard to come by.
Artist's illustration of Jupiter and Europa (in the foreground) with the Galileo spacecraft after its pass through a plume erupting from Europa's surface.
It's based on research by the University of MI that re-examined data when the Galileo space craft flew over Europa in 1997.
South Korea's Biggest Cryptocurrency Exchange Investigated by Local Police, Market Drops
Gox trustee has dumped an additional 8,000 Bitcoins into the market as contributing factors in Friday's crypto price decline. This latest suspected fraud comes at a time of increased scrutiny in South Korea and Asia in general.
Last month researchers found two lakes hidden under thick ice in Canada that could be similar to the conditions found on Jupiter's moon Europa. As a space physicist, she'd used the probe's 11 flybys of Europa to take detailed magnetic readings, which ultimately helped her prove the moon's subsurface ocean exists. Galileo actually did a flyby of that location, and it was the closest one we ever had.
Examining the data of previous missions of Hubble and Galileo to the system of Jupiter, scientists have discovered evidence that the moon of Jupiter Europe, the successive explosions, which indicate the existence of an ocean under the ice.
When another researcher presented findings recently on Hubble's collection of observations, "that led us to realise we had to go back and look at Galileo data", said Xianzhe Jia, associate professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
"The data were there, but we needed sophisticated modeling to make sense of the observation", Jia said.
That's particularly exciting because it also suggests that Europa may have an energy source propelling the water skyward.
'These results provide strong independent evidence of the presence of plumes at Europa, ' researchers wrote. The agency is developing a $2 billion Jupiter-orbiting mission called Europa Clipper, which is scheduled to launch in the early to mid-2020s.
NASA described the report as "good news" ahead of a new mission to the moon, named the Europa Clipper mission.