NASA releases images of Jupiter moon which ‘may be harbouring extra-terrestrial’

A NASA spacecraft's first images of Jupiter's frozen moon has amazed scientists.

NASA's Juno spacecraft snapped four photos of Europa as it performed a flyby of the moon with the photos being released on Thursday.

It was scientists best and closest look at Europa for 20 years.

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The frozen moon is believed to have an ocean flowing underneath its frozen crust which has raised the possibility of extra-terrestrial life.

Calling the mission a success, scientists had also hoped to observe potential water plums from the surface of Europa, however, there were none visible in the initial search.

Juno's chief scientist, Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said: "We have to be at the right place at just the right time".

John Bordi, deputy mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said he expected the spacecraft to travel at a speedy pace with the prove travelling at a relative velocity of almost 15mi per second.

The latest observations of Europa will help the space agency plan for its Europa Clipper mission which is due to launch in 2024 and arrive at the Jovian system in 2030.

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Despite Juno's impressive pace, its NASA's former Galileo spacecraft that retains the Europa flyby record, passing within 218mi in 2000.

Europa's ice-covered oceans is believed to be about 15 miles thick with previous research confirming the presence of water and oxygen at its surface, as well as chemicals that could provide the role of nutrients.

With scientists unable to confirm how oxygen is able to travel through the frozen crust, a team created a model on how they believe its possible.

The team have suggested that salt water within the icy shell could be transporting oxygen through the barrier of ice.

British Professor Monica Grady has previously stated that the human race are more likely to find alien life on Europa, rather than Mars.

"I think we've got a better chance of having slightly higher forms of life on Europa, perhaps similar to the intelligence of an octopus," she said.

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