While we earth-lubbers were all cracking skip-loads of brazil nuts over the Christmas period, and arguing about what to watch on the telly, our intrepid space crew on board Cymru III were busy carrying out endless mission duties as they skimmed the very outer edges of Europa’s atmosphere.
Festivities comprised just the briefest pause to exchange presents – Dilywn gave Meg a winalot nugget wrapped in toilet paper, and Megan gave Dilwyn a nasty bite on the arm. She’s developed a bit of a taste for human flesh after the gout-riddled big-toe excision episode of a couple of weeks ago.
With the space-furniture all moved to a position just aft of the centre of gravity our crew must now choose a suitable landing site. The photo above shows a position about 53 degrees north of Europa’s equator – which puts it in about the same position as Cerrigydrudion would be if it were on Europa. Our scientists became very excited when this picture first came back as it appears to show three separate areas where sub-surface oceans seem to have welled up and flowed over the frigid surface before re-freezing. The water table may be close enough to be accessible here.
As Cyrmu III passed directly overhead, the automatic 110 camera took another picture. This one we have nick-named the tyre-print on account of it looking just like a car has recently driven through some snow. The similarities end there though as each of the indentations is about 10km across. This zoom photo taken from an altitude of 1,870 km.
WASA geologists think it shows a vast plain where tidal forces from Jupiter have affected the relatively thin crust, and refreezing has caused the features shown. Either that or there is some seriously big Europan traffic to watch out for.
We’ve narrowed the potential landing site down to this area we have dubbed “big foot”. This deep impression into the surface of Europa looks exactly like a human footprint, but is probably impact related in origin. Being about 15 miles long and about 90 Peter Crouch’s deep it should give us closer access to the long suspected sub-surface ocean.
Nearby, and highlighted by the camera’s graticule is another interesting geological feature – which appears to be the very tip of a mountain just poking through the deep crust of snow and ice. It should be close enough to the landing site for Dilwyn to ride out to and investigate on the space-moped we packed into Cymru III’s boot.
Watch this space…