Life on Europa?

Life on Europa?[1]

A few places in our Solar System could host microbes, and Jupiter’s moon Europa is a prime candidate.

Planetary scientists believe Europa has an extensive liquid water ocean beneath its icy crust. The sixth-largest moon in the Solar System, Europa is rich in silicates, probably has an iron core, and possesses a tenuous atmosphere and an icy surface striated by cracks and faults.

The extensive amounts of water ice on Europa and tidal flexing help to create the sub-surface ocean, the existence of which was bolstered in 2014 with the detection of plate tectonics on the moon’s thick ice crust the first detection of this activity on a planetary body other than Earth.

Further, in 2013, NASA scientists detected phyllosilicate clay minerals on Europa‘s surface—and these minerals on Earth are often associated with organic molecules. The moon also displays evidence of water vapor plumes similar to those of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

[1] David J. Eicher at www.ASTRONOMY.COM. The picture shows a cracked icy surface in this Galileo spacecraft image. Picture from NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute (Europa); NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (Cosmic seeds, 10 Tatooines; LLNL (Life from Comets)

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