Life May Exist on Europa Under Layers of Ice

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While speculations that life may exist on other planets in our solar system, Europa seems to be the prime candidate according to evidence collected about Jupiter and its moons. Following a new study, NASA scientists believe that the upper layer of Europa’s ice sheet may hold the key to whether life may exist on Jupiter’s moon.

Europa was a standout from the first sight. A smaller variant of Earth’s moon, Europa has a thick layer of frozen water with a relative number of cracks. The fact that there are no craters would suggest the presence of liquid water under the surface. The heat that keeps the water in liquid form may come from the tidal flexing caused by orbiting Jupiter, with evidence of water erupting from fissures in the surface.

The main issue is the fact that the ice sheet is really thick. Even if a probe would manage to dig into it and reach the bottom, the signal needed for analysis would have no means of reaching Earth. The intense radiation coming from Jupiter’s destroys any organic life forms that may reach the surface. They key is to dig just deep enough to escape the radiation but not deep enough as to lose the signal. And according to NASA, it seems that only a few inches are needed in order to reach the sweet spot. Based on a radiation model believed to be the most accurate to date, it would seem that radiation from Jupiter only penetrates a few inches at most, even in the most exposed areas. Around the poles, radiation affect under 0.5 inches of ice, making it the most suitable zone for a probe landing.

A successful landing of a probe may clear some of the existing controversies and prove if the moon itself may support more complex life forms. The upcoming Europa Clipper mission may offer valuable information on the topic.


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