The Nerd Side Of Life

Attempt No Landing There- Could There be Life on Europa?

Move over Mars- Jupiter’s moon Europa may be the most likely place to have aliens! Europa has a huge liquid ocean sitting under a sheet of ice. And as we know, where there is water, there is often life. Even though the moon is only one-fourth the diameter of Earth, its ocean may have twice as much water as our planet.

Research that supports this theory is being done right here on earth. Data collected on an ice sheet in Greenland showed characteristics similar to the one on Europa. When researchers applied ice-penetrating radar, results showed the formation of a double ridge.

“One of my colleagues on this paper, who is a planetary scientist, was giving a presentation on the big open questions in Europa science and showed a picture of these double ridges on the surface,” Riley Culberg, electrical engineer and PhD student at Stanford University, headed up this new study, explained. “It struck me that I had seen a similar looking feature in my own data from Earth while working on a totally different project related to climate change impacts on the Greenland ice sheet.”

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After this realization the scientist went back to the data collected on Europa. They focused on a specific ratio between the height of the ridges and the distance between the two peaks. After taking into account the differences in gravity between the two planets they determined the ice did form in a similar way.

The catch is the ice sheet on Europa is 10-15 miles thick. The deepest humans have dug successfully so far is 7.67 miles. But Culberg’s study, double ridge formation over shallow water sills on Jupiter’s moon Europa published in Nature Communications, does give some hope. It is possible that the ice on Europa may be more porous than theorized. This may mean it houses several pockets of water which could also support life.

NASA already has a launch planned to Europa in October of 2024. It should arrive by April of 2030.

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