For most of us, the universe is a little abstract: We can’t readily comprehend its scale and can barely see any of it anyway. In spite of the duotrigintillion leagues of space that remain hidden, we’ve managed to build instruments that can observe planets, stars, and galaxies, and more.
This week we ponder a variety of phenomena in the cosmos, starting with a famous icy moon of Jupiter called Europa. This sixth moon of the gas giant has a massive global ocean hidden beneath its thick, icy crust. Many think Europa’s salty seas could harbor some sort of alien life. A new paper out this week attributes some of the coloring on the moon’s icy surface not to magnesium sulfates, or Epsom salts, but to sodium chloride – yes, table salt. The finding becomes even more remarkable when you consider how much life exists in our own oceans. If the waters there are carrying sodium chloride, a major component of sea salt, then it’s tantalizingly possible that these Jovian seas hold life, just like the ones here on Earth.
Moving farther out there, things get stranger but also more stunning: As galaxies age, some spirals like our own Milky Way may develop a bar across their cores, a sort of walkway made of stars stretching from one galactic side to the other. Astronomers are studying older spirals to see how they might grow these stellar bars, with the hope of better understanding how galaxies mature.
Space photos and potato chips, bet you can’t have just one or two or three or four. Sample WIRED’s full collection of photos, here.