Image Gallery: reddish bands on Europa’s surface

converted PNM file

The icy surface of Europa, with reddish bands of water ice mixed with hydrated salts. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
The icy surface of Europa, with reddish bands of water ice mixed with hydrated salts. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

A “new” (previously unreleased) colour view of Europa’s surface from the old Galileo spacecraft; the image is a product of clear-filter grayscale data from one orbit, combined with lower-resolution colour data taken on a different orbit. The surface here is primarily almost pure water ice, with reddish bands of water ice containing hydrated salts. The image area measures approximately 163 km by 167 km (101 by 103 miles). What might be found in the subsurface ocean below? More information here.

Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.


  1. Years ago someone made a connection between the red color and the magnesium sulfate and ever since it has been repeated. but there are no red or brown mineral sulfates. Also the color seems to be associated with recent ice deposits such as those along the cracks and upwellings. But everyone seems satisfied that the color is hydrated salt. except Brad Dalton at JPL with whom I have corresponded.


    I guess there is only so much info that can be gleaned from the spec data so they don’t beat this drum too loudly. Still I don’t think it is “good science” to downplay a logical explaination in favour of something that simply is not true (i.e. life pigments vs. non-existent sulfates).

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