The Hidden Ocean of Europe: Future Exploration and Prospects for Life - Robert T. Pappalardo

 

Jupiter's moon Europa tops a very short list of worlds in our solar system that could possibly support life today. This is because Europa may have an internal ocean of liquid water, plus the chemistry and energy life needs to exist. Europa orbits the giant planet Jupiter in the cold reaches of the outer solar system, where its icy surface forms a rock hard crust. But a bizarre surface tells us Europa is warm inside with a liquid water ocean about 12 miles(20km) below. Spacecraft images show bizarre ridges and cracks crisscrossing Europa and jumbled, blocky areas that include frozen briny water. There are few large impact craters, indicating a relatively young surface, repaved in the last 60 million years. Recent images from the Hubble space telescope of Europa show that giant plumes of water may occasionally spew into space. Europa's oceans is so intruiging because similarly hostile environments in Earth's deep oceans are teeming with life. NASA is currently planning a robotic mission to search for water and evaluate Europa's potential for life. The mission would investigate Europa's icy crust probable ocean, chemistry, and geology. It would also scout out sites for a possible future landed mission. Europa may hold answers to one of humanity's most fundamental questions: Are we alon ein the universe?