May 16, 2022

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The possibility of life on Jupiter's moon Europa has increased a lot

The possibility of life on Jupiter’s moon Europa has increased a lot

Humans have always looked at the stars and hoped that alien life would look up to us. However the fact is that the first Extraterrestrial life We find out that it is likely to be so bacterial A less romantic possibility than the idea of ​​bipedal aliens shake hands With humans after landing on Earth.

Like microbial life It has been assumed to exist in The early days of Mars, before the water dries up, although we still don’t know for sure. Now, astrobiologists are turning their eyes toward another nearby neighbor, Europa – the icy gray moon of Jupiter – as a suddenly more attractive candidate for simple life.

“Early microbial life on Earth evolved in the liquid, saltwater environment of our oceans—which makes the hint of saline water in Europe so puzzling.

Renewed interest in Europa’s potential to harbor life stems from a new study on this strange moon. The subject of curiosity is the giant protuberances that intersect the surface of the planet like dents on the main sphere. Down those hills, explain my authors A new paper In Nature Communications, there may be puddles of salt water and liquid. And since these hills are scattered all over, that means puddles can also be common.

Of course, early microbial life on Earth evolved in the liquid, salty environment of our oceans—which is what makes Europe’s saltwater hint so puzzling. The unique geography of Europe is also very similar to northwest Greenland, which is the other half of what the study is about.

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“We present here the discovery and analysis of a double ridge in northwest Greenland with the same gravimetric geometry as that of Europe,” explained the authors. “Using surface elevation data and radar sounding data, we show that this double edge was formed by the successive refreezing, compression and fracture of the shallow water threshold within the ice sheet. If the same process is responsible for Europa double edges, our results suggest that shallow liquid water [ubiquitous] across Europa’s icy crust.

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Europe is not a particularly big world. It’s only 2,000 miles in diameter, and it’s not as large as Earth’s moon. However, Europa’s deck is unique, adorned with giant double eaves that can soar 1,000 feet in the air.

When a team of scientists at Stanford University learned about Europe’s double ridges, they decided to study smaller geological structures in northwest Greenland. More specifically, they studied Greenland’s Small Double Hills feature and learned how they formed. It turns out that it came into being because shallow pools of water below the surface first froze and then ended up on several occasions. This repeatedly pushed the twin edges upward, so if similar outcrops on Europa formed in the same way, as seems likely, the continuous ripple could help trigger the chemical reactions needed to create life. It’s an interesting introduction, to say the least, and part of a long history of interest in astrobiology in Europe.

“Gravity measurements also tell us that below this ice/water layer there is a layer of rock and then a metal core in the centre,” Phillips added. If you want there to be life in the universe, these are all good signs, because they indicate that the basic ingredients can be found on the mysterious moon.

“Scientists know from a combination of observations by ground-based telescopes and spacecraft such as Galileo that Europa’s surface is covered primarily by water ice,” Dr. Pay Lab, tell salon via email. Astronomers estimate that Europa’s surface has the same density as water ice and is about 100 kilometers thick, but the gravitational measurements used to get this estimate do not answer questions about the exact composition. How much solid ice and how much liquid water is this?

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“Gravity measurements also tell us that below this ice/water layer there is a layer of rock and then a metal core in the center,” added Phillips, who was not involved in the latest study. If you want there to be life in the universe, these are all good signs, because they indicate that the basic ingredients can be found on the mysterious moon.

“There are three things that are essential to life as we know it,” Dr. Christopher Sheba, professor of astrophysics and international affairs at Princeton University, explained in an email to Salon. In addition to liquid water and a source of usable energy, you need “the so-called bioelements” – such as carbon – “on which our kind of life depends”, as well as a source of usable energy. “NASA’s strategy for searching for life has always been to ‘follow the water’, and Europa and Enceladus in our solar system are the two places, along with Mars, where we have a lot of evidence of liquid water potentially available for exploration,” explained Chiba, who was not involved in the study. .

Chiba said it would be “strange” if Europa had not formed with the “usual complement” of vital elements one finds on celestial bodies, “but even if Europa had somehow formed without it, the late Betty Pierazzo showed that Europe would have greatly accumulated their inventory throughout the history of the solar system. from comet impacts.” Pierazzo was a researcher at the Planetary Science Institute specializing in collision drilling.

Dreamers of Europa-pean life could also factor in the magnetic field results, which gave strong evidence of an “induced field” as Europa orbits Jupiter, which has its own very strong magnetic field. What explains Europe’s magnetic field?

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“The source of this induced field is best explained by the global saltwater ocean,” Phillips told Salon. “We think Europa contains the ingredients for life as we know it — more liquid water than all of Earth’s oceans combined, plus the right other chemical elements and a source of energy. On Earth, we find life wherever we have these three ingredients, so we think Europe is one of the best places to be. To search for life in our solar system beyond Earth.”

Chiba echoed this view when he wrote that “it is possible, on the basis of what we know so far, to imagine the types of microorganisms that could inhabit the ocean of Europe.” There was an important caveat, however, that we are dealing with a real extraterrestrial being – we can’t know for sure that life can only evolve as it does on Earth because We don’t fully understand why “life” exists in the first place.

“We don’t know if there is life or not, because we don’t have enough understanding of the origin of life (on Earth or elsewhere) to say whether Yoruba conditions would have favored the origin of life,” Chiba noted.

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