A "remastered" image originally taken in the late 1990s of Jupiter's moon Europa has yielded a sumptuous new color image of a place NASA says is a "very likely place ... to look for evidence of life" as we understand it here on Earth.
Starting with low-resolution and color-enhanced images taken by the space agency's Galileo spacecraft almost 20 years ago, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have created a new color view of the moon's surface close to how Europa should appear to the naked human eye.
It reveals an impressive diversity of surface geology, NASA said in a statement announcing the release of the photo.
"Color variations across the surface are associated with differences in geologic feature type and location," NASA says. "For example, areas that appear blue or white contain relatively pure water ice, while reddish and brownish areas include non-ice components in higher concentrations."
Visible in the photo are extensive linear ridges and cracks crisscrossing Europa's surface, many of them interrupted by regions disrupted by surface ice that has broken up and then re-frozen into different patterns, it said.
The new view of Europa was created by bringing together a mosaic of images captured by Galileo's Solid-State Imaging (SSI) experiment during the spacecraft's first orbit through the Jupiter system in 1995 and its fourteenth orbit in 1998.
Images taken through near-infrared, violet and green filters were combined then given color-correction calibrated by wavelength, JPL said.
Discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610 using one of the world's earliest telescopes, Europa is thought to possess a deep global ocean -- possible 10 times deeper than any sea on Earth -- under its frozen surface, which means it might have all of the ingredients that would be required to form Earth-like life -- liquid water, organic compounds and an internal source of energy.
NASA's Galileo spacecraft was an unmanned probe launched in 1989 to study several bodies within the solar system, particularly Jupiter and its moons.
It arrived at Jupiter at Jupiter in December of 1995, becoming the first spacecraft to go into orbit around the giant gas planet.
It continued to conduct scientific investigations Jupiter and its atmosphere, including sending a separate probe in that atmosphere, for 8 years until September 21, 2003, when controllers ended Galileo's mission by sending the spacecraft plummeting into the planet's atmosphere to burn up.