For us this is nothing new, but news circulates on the Internet showing the results of new studies …
Scientists have discovered how Europa’s subterranean ocean, one of Jupiter’s moons, may have formed and determined that this vast expanse of water may have been able to support microbial life.
Europa, with an ocean hidden under a thick layer of ice, has long been seen as a habitat potential for extraterrestrial life in our solar system, alongside other candidates such as Mars and Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. A new study presented on Wednesday (24) at a geoscience conference highlights its potential.
Europa’s ocean may have formed after water-rich minerals ejected its water, thanks to the warming caused by the decomposition of radioactive elements inside it earlier in its history, the researchers found.
The effect of the tides caused by Europa’s gravitational interactions with Jupiter – the largest planet in the solar system – and two other large Jovian moons, Io and Ganymede, may also have played a role.
Planetary scientist Mohit Melwani Daswani, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and study leader, reported:
We think that Europa’s ocean may have been habitable from the start, because our models show that the ocean’s composition may have been slightly acidic, containing carbon dioxide and some sulfate salts.
The availability of liquid water is the first step towards habitability. In addition, chemical exchanges between the ocean and the rocky interior may have been significant in the past, so potential life may have been able to use chemical energy to survive.
Daswani said microbes that resemble certain bacteria on Earth that use carbon dioxide as energy could have survived using ingredients available at the beginning of Europa’s oceans.
Europa is slightly smaller than the Earth’s moon. Europa’s ocean, 65 to 160 km deep, may contain twice as much water as Earth’s oceans.
The study assessed whether Europa was previously habitable and did not examine its current habitability, an issue that researchers are now exploring.
Melwani Daswani alerts:
A word of caution. If a place is habitable, it does not mean that it is actually inhabited, only that conditions can allow the survival of some extremely resistant forms of life that we know on Earth.