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CNN Today

NASA's Galileo Spacecraft Finds Hint of Ocean on Europa

Aired January 11, 2000 - 2:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: NASA's Galileo spacecraft has found a tantalizing hint of an ocean in outer space.

And to learn about the finding and the possible implications, we're joined by CNN science correspondent Ann Kellan.

Ann, what have they found.

ANN KELLAN, CNN SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT: Well, researchers are excited by this finding. The latest findings indicate that Europa, which is one of Jupiter's moons, has a magnetic attraction to Jupiter, and that attraction could be yet another indication that there is water on this moon. Galileo, flying by Europa, January 3rd, measured its electromagnetic field and found Europa does have a magnetic pull to Jupiter. Scientists are now trying to figure out why.

They know Jupiter is coated with ice, a chaotic terrain of broken sheets and ridges and icebergs 1,000 feet high, but there's got to be something more for that magnetic attraction. Scientist speculate now there is salt and water there to conduct electricity and create a magnetic field. And they theorize there's an ocean six to 60 miles beneath the moon's service.

And where there's water there could be life beneath the service as well.

ALLEN: So, life that would resemble, perhaps, the life forms that are in the very bottom of our oceans.

KELLAN: Exactly, exactly.

ALLEN: What's the next step in finding this out for sure?

KELLAN: Well, they have to do more flybys, and they want to do that, and the good news is that Galileo just got an extended mission, so it could be flying by again in the next two years.

ALLEN: And Galileo's been out there a while, hasn't it? How has this mission compare to, say, the missions that haven't worked out so well to Mars.

KELLAN: Well, in this case, the Galileo mission is a success. It started out in 1995. It went for two years, and it was extended again until this month, and then, as I just mentioned, it has another extension, and it's just doing so well up there I think they're going to keep it going for as long as possible, and hopefully -- the next mission is February 22nd they're going by the moon Io, which is a volcanic moon of Jupiter.

ALLEN: And what about Europa and what it's made of? What do they know about that?

KELLAN: Well, right now they know -- and we have an image of this -- they know it's a core with a rock, it's basically rock. Now, where you see the blue it's water, and that thin white is ice. So, the theory right now is that there's a coat of ice, there's a sheet of ice protecting Europa from all the harsh elements, and that's why they think there could possibly be life living inside that sheet and protective layer.

ALLEN: All right, Ann Kellan, interesting find. Thank you for being with us. We'll see you later on that one.

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