Gravity Tells Us More Than You Think


Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Europa Clipper, the upcoming NASA flagship class mission, is expected to be launched in the early 2020s. The primary goal of the mission is to study Europa as the spacecraft orbits Jupiter. A recent study has tried to assess how precise the gravity measurements that the spacecraft takes will be. Their work suggests that the spacecraft should be able to determine if there is a global ocean and if the ice shell is hydrostatic. This could potentially be important if the thickness of the ice shell is found to be larger than the expected resolution of the ground penetrating radar. This instrument is expected to be key in characterizing the ice shell.

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Expected precision of Europa Clipper gravity measurements