These “extremophile” life for… } else { A passing spacecraft might even be able to sample Europa’s ocean without landing on the moon’s surface because it is possible that Europa’s ocean may be leaking out into space. The best evidence that there's an ocean on Europa was gathered by NASA's Galileo spacecraft, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003. If signs of life exist on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, they might not be as hard to find as scientists had thought, a new study reports. Radiation from Jupiter can destroy molecules on Europa's surface. Galleries If we eventually find some form of life at Europa (or Mars or Enceladus for that matter), it may look like microbes, or maybe something more complex. Europa’s water-ice surface is crisscrossed by long, linear fractures. Europa’s vast and unfathomably deep ocean is widely considered the most promising place to look for life beyond Earth. Even if Europa isn’t ejecting free samples into space, a 2018 study concluded that samples of Europa’s ocean could get frozen into the base of the moon’s ice shell, where the ice makes contact with the ocean. Director, NASA Planetary Science Division: The Search for Life }, 300) $('.gltf_viewer iframe').css({'height': "450px", 'width': '1px', 'max-width': '100%', 'min-width': '100%'}) window.addEventListener("message", receiveMessage, false) Oxygen is a very reactive element, and potentially could be used in chemical reactions that release energy, which lifeforms could exploit. NASA's Juno mission has provided its first science results on the amount of water in Jupiter's atmosphere. The Galilean moons follow the same principle, being less dense the farther they are from Jupiter. "encoding": [{"@type":"MediaObject","contentUrl":"","encodingFormat":"model/gltf+json"},{"@type":"MediaObject","contentUrl":"","encodingFormat":"model/vnd.usdz+zip"}] This multidisciplinary field encompasses the search for habitable environments in our solar system and habitable planets outside our solar system and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in space. The interaction between the ocean and the rocks could possibly supply chemical nutrients for living organisms. On Earth, life forms have been found thriving near subterranean volcanoes, deep-sea vents and other extreme environments. This moon of Jupiter might have life in a subsurface ocean. Life as we know it seems to have three main requirements: liquid water, the appropriate chemical elements, and an energy source. That fantasy, however, may be grounded in reality. var h = window.innerHeight The magnitude of this difference changes as Europa orbits, creating tides that stretch and relax the moon’s surface. Amanda Barnett If confirmed by follow-up observations, the plumes of water could be studied by future spacecraft similar to how the Cassini sampled the plume of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. } February 10, 2017. Credit: NASA Visualization Technology Applications and Development (VTAD). "image": "", At just over 3,100 kilometres (1,900 mi) in diameter, it is the sixth-largest moon and fifteenth-largest object in the Solar System. In 2011, scientists studying Galileo data proposed that chaos terrains could be places where the surface collapsed above lens-shaped lakes embedded within the ice. $full.find('iframe').css({'height': h, 'width': w, 'min-width': '', 'max-width': ''}) Psyche, the NASA mission to explore a metal-rock asteroid of the same name, recently passed a crucial milestone. setTimeout(function(){ Cyclones at the north pole of Jupiter appear as swirls of striking colors in this extreme false color rendering of an image from NASA’s Juno mission. Europa has a layer of ice and water on top of a rocky and metal interior, while Ganymede and Callisto actually have higher proportions of water ice and so lower densities. With an equatorial diameter of 1,940 miles (3,100 kilometers), Europa is about 90 percent the size of Earth’s Moon. Its bulk density suggests that it is similar in composition to the terrestrial planets, being primarily composed of silicate rock. One AU is the distance from Earth to the Sun. Fun — and even educational — NASA activities to do at home. Gretchen McCartney, NASA Missions Provide New Insights into 'Ocean Worlds' in Our Solar System, Old Data Reveal New Evidence of Europa Plumes, Newly Reprocessed Images of Europa Show 'Chaos Terrain' in Crisp Detail, NASA Seeks New Options for Science Instrument on Europa Clipper, Radiation Maps of Europa: Key to Future Missions, NASA's Europa Flyby Mission Moves into Design Phase, NASA's Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa, Europa's Ocean May Have An Earthlike Chemical Balance. if($full.length > 0){ function toggleFullscreenMessage(){ For the first time since the Viking mission failures, the space agency may take the direct approach. $(window).resize(function(){ The case for life on Europa was greatly enhanced in 2011 when it was discovered that vast lakes exist within Europa's thick, icy shell. This page showcases our resources for those interested in learning more about ocean worlds. While evidence for an internal ocean is strong, its presence awaits confirmation by a future mission. Life on Europa: Water from a subsurface ocean on Jupiter's moon, Europa, could reach the surface through seeps or erupt from hot water vents. On Earth, life forms have been found thriving near subterranean volcanoes, deep-sea vents and other extreme environments. Liquid water and sources of energy are the essential prerequisites for Life. So while Europa is only one-fourth the diameter of Earth, its ocean may contain twice as much water as all of Earth’s oceans combined. Models suggest that Europa's icy shell is relatively thin. var w = window.innerWidth That's a bad thing for life on the surface – it couldn't survive. Astrobiologists— scientists who study the origin, evolution and future of life in the universe — believe Europa has abundant water and the right chemical elements, but an energy source on Europa has been difficult to confirm. There also will be a partial penumbral eclipse of the Moon. If Europa does have a salty ocean, chemical reactions between the water and the rocks on the ocean floor could create hydrogen-rich materials. "@context": "", } Later on, asteroids and comets impacted the moon and would have deposited even more organic, or carbon containing, materials. Credit: NASA Visualization Technology Applications and Development (VTAD) New results from NASA's Juno mission suggest that either "sprites" or "elves" could be dancing in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter. Any life forms will have to get energy, but the way they would go about it is hard to predict, ... such as Enceladus and Europa. Europa's surface also shows signs it could have an ocean beneath it. If the plumes do exist, and if their source is linked to Europa’s ocean, then a spacecraft could travel through the plume to sample and analyze it from orbit, and it would essentially be analyzing the moon’s ocean (the Cassini spacecraft performed this feat at Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which is known to have an ocean spraying into space). console.log("Toggling fullscreen", $('.gltf_viewer').length) The Voyager imaging team asked for the photo to show Earth’s vulnerability — to illustrate how small, fragile and irreplaceable it is on a cosmic scale.