An image of Jupiter's Moon Europa, a candidate for being home to alien life. Image Credit: NASA.

Compelling Evidence Suggests Europa’s Inner Ocean Could Support Life

Scientists say that the alien ocean inside Jupiter's moon Europa could be habitable.

A scientific model suggests that there is compelling evidence that supports the idea that the inner ocean of Jupiter’s Moon Europa can harbor alien life. Europa is one of the largest alien moons in our solar system and one of the top candidates for alien life.

A new study from NASA experts confirms the hypothesis that the inner ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa can harbor life as we know it.

Furthermore, scientists have calculated that this water, believed to be an ocean below the mile-long frozen surface, could have been formed by decomposing water-containing minerals due to tidal forces or radioactive decay.

The new study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, was introduced for the first time at the Goldschmidt virtual conference and may have important implications for other moons in the Solar System.

Jupiter’s moon Europa is one of the largest moons in our solar system and hosts a >100 km deep ocean beneath its 3 – 30 km ice shell. Since the ‘Voyager’ and ‘Galileo’ spacecraft’s flybys, scientists have claimed that the surface crust floats above a massive subsurface ocean.

However, the origins and composition of this ocean have not been clear.

An alien ocean that might support life

Based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the researcher modeled geochemical reservoirs in the interior of Europe using data collected from the Galileo mission to make the new revelations.

Lead researcher Mohit Melwani Daswani explains that scientists could model the composition and physical properties of the core, the silicate layer, and the ocean.

Researchers also discovered that different minerals lose water and volatiles at different depths and temperatures.

“We find that different minerals lose water and volatiles at different depths and temperatures. We added up these volatiles that are estimated to have been lost from the interior and found that they are consistent with the current ocean’s predicted mass, meaning that they are probably present in the ocean,” explained Daswani.

The researchers discovered that ocean worlds like Europe could be formed by metamorphism. Warming and increased pressure caused by early radioactive decay or subsequent movement of subsurface tides would cause the decomposition of water-containing minerals and the release of those caught in the water.

The researchers also discovered that this ocean would originally have been slightly acidic, with high carbon dioxide, calcium, and sulfate concentrations.

“Indeed, it was thought that this ocean could still be rather sulfuric,” revealed Mohit Melwani Daswani, “but our simulations, coupled with data from the Hubble Space Telescope, showing chloride on Europa’s surface, suggests that the water most likely became chloride rich. In other words, its composition became more like oceans on Earth. We believe that this ocean could be quite habitable for life.”

It isn’t surprising to learn that scientists are so interested in Europa, its crust, and above all, its inner ocean. As far as our understanding of life goes, Europa is one of our best chances of discovering alien life in our solar system.

To see whether this is the case, NASA planets to send a mission to Europa in the next few years. The Europa Clipper mission is set to “conduct a detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.”

The Europa Clipper mission is one of our best bets to determine if alien moons like Europa are home to alien life. To probe the alien moon, the Europa Clipper mission will carry thermal instruments that will survey Jupiter’s moon’s frozen surface, searching for recent eruptions of warmer water at or near the surface.

Additional instruments onboard the spacecraft will look for evidence of water and tiny particles in the moon’s nearly non-existent atmosphere that may hold clues to life beneath the surface.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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