Jupiter's icy moon Europa is pockmarked by mysterious domes and depressions that now seem to be areas where liquid water once appeared close to the surface. Thera Macula is one such region of likely active chaos production above a large liquid water lake in the icy shell of Europa. Color indicates topographic heights relative to background terrain. Purples and reds indicate the highest terrain.
Further increasing the potential for life, the newly discovered lake is covered by floating ice shelves that seem to be collapsing, providing a mechanism for transferring nutrients and energy between the surface and a vast ocean already inferred to exist below the thick ice shell.
“This new understanding of processes on Europa would not have been possible without the foundation of the last 20 years of observations over Earth’s ice sheets and floating ice shelves,” said Don Blankenship, a co-author and senior research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics, where he leads airborne radar studies of Earth’s ice sheets.
The large dark spot on Europa called Thera Macula above could result from warm ice rising beneath it, Schmidt told New Scientist. "We are probably witnessing active chaos formation."