Europa Clipper’s instruments and other spacecraft hardware are developed at contractor facilities across the United States and Europe.
Living things interpret physical phenomena in a variety of ways. Sounds at various frequencies can signal threats, or sources of food. Likewise, image and color (the absorption and reflection specific wavelengths of light) and their interpretation indicates much about its source. Spectrometers interpret light too, but with greater range and precision.
Europa Clipper’s Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa, or MISE (pronounced “mize”), will analyze infrared light reflected from Europa. It will measure the presence, absence, strength, and weakness of various wavelengths, or frequencies, of light. MISE will map Europa’s surface composition in detail.
How It Works
Infrared light enters MISE through a slit. Mirrors direct the light to a calcium fluoride (CaF2) lens, which directs the light to a grating. The grating cuts light into discrete wavelengths, which then strike a detector. But MISE doesn’t produce a picture all at once like a conventional camera.
MISE team member and JPL systems engineer Rick Redick explains further. “With the slit, our observation is only a line, instead of a rectangle,” Redick said. “That way it can measure multiple wavelengths of infrared light in each location.” MISE then captures a second line adjacent to the first, and so on until it has 300 lines. The approach is called push-broom observation. The 300 lines can be combined to make one picture containing the signatures of whatever atoms and molecules are present.How We'll Use It
How We'll Use It
“We’re looking for salts such as sulfates, carbonates, and other compounds,” said JPL scientist Diana Blaney, principal investigator for MISE. “And we’re looking for organics, which could be coming from the ocean. They would help us understand if Europa is habitable.” MISE will also detect Europa’s warmest hotspots, which may indicate areas of recent or present plume activity. MISE maps will help scientists understand Europa’s geologic history, and the moon’s suspected ocean. They will also help scientists learn how material circulates between the ocean and Europa’s surface.
Meet the Team“We’re looking for organics, which could be coming from the ocean and could indicate Europa’s habitability.”
Meet the Team
“Europa’s surface composition is how we’ll learn most about its ocean composition,” said Serina Diniega, JPL’s investigation scientist for MISE. The MISE team also collaborates with the mission’s other science teams. They will compare, combine, and synthesize their Europa findings. “What’s powerful is each investigation brings a piece,” Diniega said. “It’s like blindfolded people touching and describing an elephant and describing what they’re touching.”
“Understanding Europa’s surface composition is most of the information we’re going to get about what’s in the ocean underneath.”