Congratulations if you said Wood Buffalo National Park, located in north-eastern Alberta and southern Northwest Territories.
Established in 1922 to help protect northern Canada’s last remaining bison herds, today the 44,807-square-kilometre park – bigger than Switzerland – is regarded as an outstanding example of the country’s northern boreal plains.
The park is the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve – which means this just might be the most star-filled sky you ever see in your life.
It is also a great place to view the cosmic fireworks known as the aurora borealis – the northern lights.
An artist’s rendition of a water vapour plume erupting from Europa. Photograph: Nasa/Esa/K. Retherford/SWRI
A Nasa probe that explored Jupiter’s moon Europa flew through a giant plume of water vapour that erupted from the icy surface and reached a hundred miles high, according to a fresh analysis of the spacecraft’s data.
The discovery has cemented the view among some scientists that the Jovian moon, one of four first spotted by the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610, is the most promising place in the solar system to hunt for alien life.
If such geysers are common on Europa, Nasa and European Space Agency (ESA) missions that are already in the pipeline could fly through and look for signs of life in the brine, which comes from a vast subsurface ocean containing twice as much water as all the oceans on Earth.
Nasa’s Galileo spacecraft spent eight years in orbit around Jupiter and made its closest pass over Europa, a moon about the size of our own, in 1997. As the probe dropped beneath an altitude of 250 miles, its sensors twitched with unexpected signals that scientists were unable to explain at the time.
Now, in a new study, the researchers describe how they went back to the Galileo data after grainy images beamed home from the Hubble space telescope in 2016 showed what appeared to be plumes of water blasting from Europa’s surface.
They found that a sudden blast of water from the Jovian moon explained the Galileo probe’s strange measurements.