Europa

Life on a Tiny Moon?

 

The chances of finding life on other worlds have received a boost.

 

This ice-covered world may be one of the few places in our solar system other than Earth that has a water ocean, and liquid water is believed to be one of the key factors in the development of life. The ice cover on Europa is thought to be between 2 to 50 kilometers thick, and there is compelling evidence that the ice may be overlaying a deep ocean of water.

 

Seeds of Life

 

One intriguing possibility is that sulphur ejected from Jupiter's volcanic moon, Io, could make it across to Europa. If we're getting a sulphur source going into the lake it's an exciting possibility. It increases the opportunity for life.

 

Astrobiologists had thought the ice sheet covering the moon was too thick to allow anything to get in. The new research will give them food for thought. "It is informed speculation which suggests that the condition and environment will be suitable for life," says Dr Mark Burchell, a space scientist at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK.

 

One scenario is that a meteoroid crashing into Europa could have punched through the ice, carrying the building blocks of life. "Dust and meteorites carrying organic or volatile materials could have been delivered to the ocean below the surface," he says.

 

The American space agency is seriously considering sending a robotic probe to Europa to drill through the ice.

Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)

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