Faraday Cups Up Close: NASA's Europa Clipper
Included in the payload of science instruments for NASA's Europa Clipper is the Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding (PIMS). Scientists will use PIMS to study the characteristics of plasma around Europa to better understand the moon's ice shell thickness, ocean depth, and ocean salinity.
Built by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, PIMS is made up of two instruments, each with two identical sensors called Faraday cups that will measure the plasmas, or electrically charged gases, in Europa's ionosphere and Jupiter's magnetosphere.
Pictured in a clean room at APL are the recently assembled Faraday cup sensors and instrument housings in two configurations. On the left is the final flight hardware, with insulating thermal blankets installed; on the right is a test configuration that protects sensitive hardware for transportation.
With an internal global ocean twice the size of Earth's oceans combined, Europa may have the potential to harbor life. NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft will swoop around Jupiter on an elliptical path, dipping close to the moon on each flyby to collect data. Understanding Europa's habitability will help scientists better understand how life developed on Earth and the potential for finding life beyond our planet.
More information about Europa and Europa Clipper can be found here: europa.nasa.gov.