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Astronomers said Monday they have spotted evidence of water vapor plumes rising from Jupiter's moon Europa, a finding that might make it easier to learn whether life exists in the warm, salty ocean hidden beneath its icy surface.The apparent plumes detected by the Hubble Space Telescope shoot about 200 kilometers above Europa's surface before, presumably, raining material back down onto the moon's surface, NASA said.Europa, considered one of the most promising candidates for life in the solar system beyond Earth, boasts a global ocean with twice as much water as in all of Earth's seas hidden under a layer of extremely cold and hard ice of unknown thickness.Europa is 3,100 kilometers in diameter, smaller than Earth's moon. Among Jupiter's four largest moons, Europa is the second-closest to the biggest planet in the solar system.The follow-on Galileo spacecraft, which circled around and through Jupiter's system from 1995 to 2003, detected a magnetic field that likely was triggered by a salty, global ocean beneath Europa's surface.
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