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This week on SciShow Space News, we finally find out what’s causing those dark lines on Europa. Plus, learn how to become space-famous!

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So you know Europa, the fourth largest moon of Jupiter, covered in ice, huge sub-surface ocean, probably. Well I don't know if you've ever noticed but it kinda looks like it's been drizzled with barbecue sauce. No one's been quite sure why the moon has those weird rust-colored lines all over it but according to a new study published this week, it's probably sea salt. 

You heard me, just like the stuff you have sprinkled on our artisanal potato chips. I mean, pretty much. In an effort to tease out the origins of Europa's dark lines, astronomers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory put together everything we think we know about Europa's environment based on observations from space telescopes and data from probes like Galileo and some educated guesses. 

They put all those elements together in a container that they called "Europa in a can". Now since it's suspected that there's salt water beneath Europa's surface, researchers tested how this mini biosphere might respond to various kinds of salt.

By adding some simple sodium chloride to their simulator and then lowering the temperature to 173 degrees below zero and then irradiating the sample to approximate the radiation that Europa receives, the team was able to simulate a whole century on Europa in just 10 hours. 

And when they pulled the salt out of the chamber, it had turned a brownish color just like the streaks on the moon. Researchers even confirmed the color match by analyzing its light spectrum and comparing it with spectra from the dark lines of Europa.

In addition to this helping solve an old mystery, this new finding gives us more insight into what might be going on both on and inside the moon.

Confirming that Europa's surface does have actual salt water beneath it would mean it has one of the more familiar Earth-like environments in the solar system. Of course whether there's life on Europa, or in Europa, remains a mystery.

However both NASA and the European Space Agency are planning missions to Europa with launch schedules some time around 2022. And while we wait, space agencies are asking life forms here on Earth to use their highly-evolved brains to help solve some astronomical problems. 

Living on Mars, for example, is going to be incredibly complicated and it's starting to give NASA a headache. We're gonna need water, air, shelter, communication, the list is long. But NASA already knows what future explorers will need, now they're looking for people like you to help them come up with the most creative solutions to some of those problems. 

So earlier this month, it launched the Journey to Mars challenge, a new crowd sourcing project that calls on contestants, given the title of "Solvers", to submit proposals for meeting the basic operational challenges of living on Mars.

Proposals can cover any aspect of extra terrestrial living you can think of, whether it's where astronauts will get their water, or how they'll exercise or grow their food or just how they'll socialize or relax, and have fun when they're like almost a quarter billion kilometers from home. 

The only requirements for the contest are that each proposal must be feasible using today's technology, economically sustainable meaning we can't rely on Elon Musk for everything, and require as little support from Earth as possible. 

The top three ideas will be awarded $5,000 a piece, so put your thinking caps on. 

And if you're looking for a space challenge that's maybe more creative than technical, then now's your chance to name a planet.
Yes, the International Astronomical Union is teaming up with the citizens science website Zooniverse to crowd source names for 20 exoplanets, and anyone can submit an entry as long as they sign up by June 1st.

Now aren't any hard and fast rules for what the names of these worlds should look like but the contest site does provide some background about each planet like how its host star got its name and what constellation it calls home. It also includes messages from a few of the planets' discoverers, if that helps you get your creative juices flowing. 

Each submission has to come with a detailed explanation of the reasoning behind the name you propose so you probably won't get to name one after your Labrador retriever. But if you've got a meaningful idea you could be among the first to name an exoplanet.

We'd be happy to see some of your ideas for planet naming in the comments below. Links to more information on each contest are in the description.

Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Space News brought to you by our patrons on Patreon. Head on over to to learn more about how that works, and if you wanna just keep getting smarter with us, you can go to and subscribe. We're just gonna keep that one. 

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