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Fourth echelon

Dark material on Europa's surface may be sea salt

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PASADENA, Calif., May 14 (UPI) -- New research suggests sea salt may be responsible for the long streaks of dark material that scar Europa's icy surface. If so, it could mean Europa's subsurface oceans are interacting with ocean floors rich in minerals -- a sign the environment could support life.

Scientists have offered a number of theories for the origins of Europa's dark colorations, which mark the Galilean moon's long, linear fractures. Some research suggests sulfur and magnesium account for the dark color of the satellite's older geological formations.

But new data proves sea salt remains the best explanation for the dark tones of Europa's younger formations.

Of course, scientists don't yet have actual samples from the surface of Jupiter's sixth closest moon. To prove sea salt was likely responsible for Europa's darkened streaks, scientists baked salt samples in a high-tech oven.



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