Nepal | July 15, 2020

Subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa deemed potentially ‘habitable’

Reuters
Share Now:

WASHINGTON: Scientists have figured out how the subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa may have formed and determined that this vast expanse of water may have been able to support microbial life in the past.

Europa, with an ocean hidden beneath a thick shell of ice, long has been viewed as a potential habitat for extraterrestrial life in our solar system, alongside other candidates such as Mars and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. A new study presented on Wednesday at a geoscience conference underscores its potential.

A view of Jupiter’s moon Europa created from images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990’s, according to NASA, obtained by Reuters May 14, 2018. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute/ Handout via Reuters/File

Europa’s ocean may have formed after water-rich minerals ejected their water thanks to heating caused by the decay of radioactive elements in its interior early in its history, the researchers found.

The effect of tides caused by Europa’s gravitational interactions with Jupiter – the solar system’s largest planet – and two other large Jovian moons, Io and Ganymede, also may have played a role.

“We think Europa’s ocean may have been habitable early when it formed because our models show that the ocean’s composition may have been only mildly acidic, containing carbon dioxide and some sulfate salts,” said planetary scientist Mohit Melwani Daswani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the study’s leader.

“The availability of liquid water is the first step to habitability. In addition, chemical exchange 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 akin to certain Earth bacteria that use carbon dioxide for energy could have survived using ingredients available in Europa’s early ocean.

Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon. Europa’s ocean, perhaps 40 to 100 miles (65 to 160 km) deep, may contain double the water of Earth’s oceans.

The study evaluated whether Europa was previously habitable and did not examine its present habitability, a question the researchers are now exploring.

“A word of caution,” Melwani Daswani said. “If a place is habitable, it does not mean that it is actually inhabited, just that the conditions could allow for the survival of some extremely hardy forms of life that we know of on Earth.”


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Manchester United, Marcus Rashford, Premier League

United stay fifth after Saints grab last-gasp leveller

MANCHESTER: Manchester United's Champions League qualification hopes suffered a blow after an equaliser deep in stoppage time from Michael Obafemi earned Southampton a 2-2 draw in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Monday. United, unbeaten in 18 games in all competitions, were poised to m Read More...

Mayur company resumes bus service in Kathmandu

Kathmandu, July 13 Mayur Yatayat Company resumed its bus services from today in Kathmandu valley amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision of Mayur Yatayat has come as a relief to commuters at a time when other public transportation entrepreneurs were refusing to operate their services citing f Read More...

‘Press freedom should involve accountability’

Kathmandu, July 13 Minister of Communications and Information Technology Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada said the CIT Ministry ought to start digitisation first, by utilising the advancement of information technology. As the government has adopted a digital framework, we should become paperless in our activ Read More...

Absconding murder suspect held after 13 years

Kathmandu, July 13 Police have nabbed one of the two prime murder suspects of the much-hyped Sitapaila murder case that had happened 13 years ago. Two workers at a saw mill had allegedly killed its owner, his wife and inflicted serious injuries to their 15-year-old son on the night of 2 Januar Read More...

US debates school reopening, WHO warns 'no return to normal'

MIAMI: The resurgence of the coronavirus in the United States ignited fierce debate Monday about whether to reopen schools, as global health officials warned that the pandemic will intensify unless more countries adopt comprehensive plans to combat it. “If the basics aren’t followed, there is Read More...

landslide

COVID-19 control, disaster management top priorities

Kathmandu, July 13 Tokha Municipality in Kathmandu has set priorities for containment of COVID-19 crisis and disaster management in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The municipality that is located in the northern belt of Kathmandu unveiled a budget for Rs 1.58 billion for the fiscal y Read More...

US budget deficit hits all-time high of $864 billion in June

WASHINGTON: The federal government incurred the biggest monthly budget deficit in history in June as spending on programs to combat the coronavirus recession exploded while millions of job losses cut into tax revenues. The Treasury Department reported Monday that the deficit hit $864 billion last Read More...

Apple says full return to offices not until the end of the year: Bloomberg News

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has told its staff that a full return to US offices will not occur before the end of the year, Bloomberg News reported on Monday, citing an internal video message. The company is also pushing staff to work remotely as the virus forces the company to shut some of its stores agai Read More...