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The United States space agency NASA on Friday released the latest images of Jupiter's moon Europa taken by the Galileo spacecraft on December 18, 1996.

The images show in great detail the icy surface of Jupiter's moon and were taken when Galileo came within 430 miles of Europa.

While some of the images have only just been transmitted to Earth - they are already showing NASA scientists details of the complex mixture of processes that are working to form the surface of Jupiter's moon.

There has been great excitement amongst NASA scientists studying the new images from the Galileo spacecraft.

Although they have had just days to investigate these new images - already they are finding out more about the icy surface of Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

This colour animated view of Europa was first created using images from the Voyager flyby. It has now been enhanced with higher resolution images taken by Galileo and delivered to Earth just days ago.

This image of Europa was obtained from a range of 39,028 miles by the Galileo during its fourth orbit around Jupiter and its first close pass of Europa. Sun illumination is from the right, revealing several ridges crossing the scene, plateaus commonly several miles across and patches of smooth, low-lying darker materials

The next image is the highest resolution picture ever taken of Europa, with the smallest visible feature is about the size of a football field. It shows the ice-rich surface has been broken into a complex pattern by cross-cutting ridges and grooves.

One of the images shows what many believe to be a meteorite scar - this image was obtained from a range of 7,415 miles by Galileo.

The image of Jupiter's ring system was taken by the Galileo in November last year - clearly showing its radial structure.

During a press conference, Scientists revealed that the images had already shown them new features from the surface of Europa.

UPSOUND: Dr Ron Greeley ( out of vision)"We've discovered now for the first time the existence of flows. The first flows that we've seen on any of the icy moons of Jupiter and at the very highest (in vision) resolution we can see some areas not on the flows yet but just off to the side. (out of vision) But what we've not seen until viewing this terrain are these flows. Individual flows can be traced for hundreds of kilometres and they are at least one hundred metres thick. This would suggest that it is a really thick viscous mass of some sort, probably primarily water/ice".

UPSOUND: Dr Rob Sullivan (out of vision) "A lot of people feel that this is an impact scar from a large meteorite impact that because of the icy component on the crust of Europa has healed over in a way that makes the appearance of this feature very different from the bowl shaped impact craters that we are used to seeing on the moon. Other people in the team feel this could be a volcanic centre which localised heating has disrupted the crust and in a way similar to features seen in Venus.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
"We literally have had these on the ground a very short period and the ideas are evolving and as happens in science we'll be testing these ideas."
SUPERCAPTION: Dr Ron Greeley, Arizona State University

According to Dr Greeley only a third of the present images held by Galileo had been recovered and later this month another batch of high resolution images would be sent to Earth

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