Where to Look for Life on Jupiter’s Moon Europa
SPACE.comBy Megan Gannon | SPACE.com – 1 hr 54 mins agoEmail0Share40Share1PrintRelated ContentThese images show the trailing hemisphere of Jupiter’s moon Europa taken by the Galileo spacecraft at a distance of about 677,000 km. The left image shows Europa in approximately true color and the right image shows Europa in enhanced color toView PhotoThese images show the trailing …
Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is thought to be hiding a saltwater ocean beneath its thick outer crust, an exciting prospect for scientists searching for extraterrestrial life in our solar system.
A fresh look at decade-old observations from NASA’s Galileo mission could help researchers pick the ideal spot to probe Europa in the future to get an idea of what’s below its surface.
“We have found the regions where charged electrons and ions striking the surface would have done the most, and the least, chemical processing of materials emplaced at the surface from the interior ocean,” J. Brad Dalton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.
“That tells us where to look for materials representing the most pristine ocean composition, which would be the best places to target with a lander or study with an orbiter.”
Jupiter has the most powerful magnetic field of all the planets in our solar system at nearly 20,000 times the strength of Earth’s. This field traps electrons and other charged particles including ions of sulfur and oxygen spewed from volcanic eruptions on Io, a neighboring Jovian moon. The particles in this field rush around Jupiter at a rate of about 10 hours per circuit, while Europa, which is about the size of Earth’s moon, takes 3.6 days to orbit the planet in the same direction.