To Europa!
Image credit: NASA/JPL/DLR
"All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there." -HAL/Bowman, 2010: Odyssey Two

While the act of landing on Europa may be far off, it also appeared likely that recent budget cuts would have pushed back a return visit to one of the most mysterious and tantalizing objects in our solar system by decades. However, in April it was learned that a special request was made by Congress authorizing $75 million dollars in seed funding towards a mission to Europa. In-depth studies of revised concepts for a robotic science mission to Europa in the wake of the 2011 decadal survey for planetary science have identified a multiple flyby mission called the Europa Clipper as the most promising concept.

If the final mission gets approved it would take the probe quite a while to get there, as the arrival date is hoped to be some time in 2027.  What can we do to whet our appetite while we wait? It turns out that we can still easily spot Europa from our back yards, as Galileo famously did in 1610!  If you have especially good eyesight and are adept with your telescope, you might even be able to make out the disc and color of icy Europa. But hurry up! Jupiter will be slipping into the west with the sun this month. 

Of course, a lovely star party with your local amateurs helps your chances of getting a good view and a fun experience; click here to find an astronomy club near you.

Many apps allow you see the positions of each of Jupiter's four main moons. Being close to Jupiter, both Io and Europa offer many opportunities to catch a glimpse of their shadows moving across the face of Jupiter. Distant Suns and Sky Safari, available from the links below, are two possible choices for your smartphone. The non-smartphone users among us can also use the always-wonderful Stellarium, which works on multiple platforms, including PC, Mac, and Linux.

Join our vibrant stargazing community!
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Find star parties held by astronomy clubs in your area quickly using these apps or use the website!
Distant Suns, your personal guide to the cosmos, lists Night Sky Network astronomy club star parties, safe solar gazing events, and lectures in the main navigation bar. Distant Suns is available on iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and NOOK.


SkySafari, a powerful planetarium that fits in your pocket, lists Night Sky Network astronomy club star parties, safe solar gazing events, and lectures in the help menu. SkySafari is available for Android and the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.


Clear skies and happy stargazing!
The NASA Night Sky Network is managed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in cooperation with NASA