Although researchers have known about the yellow objects on the surface of Europa for a long time, they weren’t sure what the material was. However, recently a group of scientists have analyzed previously collected data to reveal that the objects in Europa’s surface are in fact sodium chloride or table salt which is pretty common here in the Earth.
As Sodium Chloride is a principal component of sea salt, the latest discovery suggests that the makeup of Europa’s oceans might be similar to those of Earth’s. While we will have to find out more about the latest discovery, it challenges the assumptions about the composition of Europa overall.
For a long time, scientists have though that Europa is covered by a layer of ice. However, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft’s data revealed that the surface might contain Magnesium Sulfate. At the time, researchers thought that the salt on Europa’s surface came from the oceans underneath the icy surface. However, when a group of scientists viewed the higher spectral resolution data from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, they realized that they weren’t seeing Magnesium Sulfate. Rather, they concluded that the yellow objects might be sodium chlorides instead.
In an attempt to find out, the group used sample ocean salts which was exposed to Europa like conditions. Surprisingly, they found that the sea salts turned yellow similar to those of Europa. According to NASA, the group will continue to conduct further research to find out more about the latest discovery.