Mission to Europe will hunt for satellite dust

Mission to Europe will hunt for satellite dust

“Think of it as pieces of a mosaic,” - Zoltan Strenovsky.

Strenovski, who is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, had in mind the question of whether Jupiter’s satellite supports - Europe life.

NASA plans to launch a robotic mission to Europe in the early 2020s to answer this question, and Strenovsky is part of the development team for one of the nine tools - the SUrface Dust Mass Analyzer, abbr. SUDA (Surface Dust Mass Analyzer), which will be used to determine the composition of materials emitted from the satellite surface.

"Each mission tool will solve one piece of this puzzle," said Strenovsky on November 4 at the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, after the presentation of SUDA chief researcher Sasha Kempf.

"Some tools will be used to determine fluid water pockets inside the ice shell, others serve to collect surface materials," added Strenovsky. "SUDA will evaluate chemicals included in the ice."

After arriving in the orbit of Jupiter, the as yet unnamed NASA probe will perform about 45 revolutions around Europe in three years. The flight will take place at an altitude of 16 miles to 1,700 miles (from 25 km to 2700 km). SUDA will carefully study the dust surrounding Europe during these spans.

"Each satellite that does not have an atmosphere is surrounded by dust exosphere, filled with dust emissions, which are formed as a result of micrometeorite bombardment," said Kempf.

These particles will collect in a dust collector at high speeds, heating and evaporating. Some of these particles will ionize — acquire a negative or positive electrical charge due to the production or loss of electrons.

The work of SUDA should allow the mission’s scientists to identify the organic carbon blocks of life as we know it and to construct composite maps of the surface of Europe.

“The spacecraft will experience a high level of radiation in the Jupiter system, so the SUDA developers and all other crew members must properly shield their instruments. This is a serious design problem,” Kempf said.

“But if such problems can be overcome, the mission to Europe should produce very interesting results,” added Strenovski.

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