Jupiter’s Moon Europa: Evidence of Carbon Dioxide Points to Potential for Extraterrestrial Life
Researchers using data from the James Webb Space Telescope have discovered that carbon dioxide detected on Jupiter’s moon Europa likely originates from the vast ocean hidden beneath its icy shell. This finding has the potential to support the theory that Europa’s hidden water could harbor extraterrestrial life.
Europa is known to have a massive saltwater ocean kilometers below its icy surface, making it a prime candidate for hosting life in our Solar System. However, determining whether this concealed ocean has the necessary chemical elements to support life has been challenging.
Using the Webb telescope’s near-infrared spectrometer, two separate teams of researchers examined the presence of carbon dioxide on Europa’s surface. The studies, published in the journal Science, aimed to determine if the CO2 came from sources other than the ocean below.
The results showed that the carbon dioxide was likely derived from the interior of Europa, possibly from the internal ocean. Although the possibility of the carbon coming up from the planet’s interior as rock-like carbonate minerals still exists, the researchers’ findings suggest that the internal ocean is the source.
Additionally, the presence of table salt in a region called Tara Regio further supports the notion of complex internal chemistry within Europa. The combination of salt and carbon dioxide provides insight into what the internal chemistry of Europa’s hidden ocean might look like.
While no plumes of water or volatile gases shooting out of Europa’s surface were observed, the discovery of carbon dioxide and salt contributes to our understanding of this enigmatic moon.
Future missions, such as the European Space Agency’s Juice probe launched in April and NASA’s Europa Clipper mission scheduled for 2024, aim to gather more information about Europa, including its surface chemistry. These missions will provide valuable insights into the potential habitability of Europa’s ocean, as well as investigate other icy moons of Jupiter.
In conclusion, the detection of carbon dioxide on Jupiter’s moon Europa strengthens the case for the existence of an underground ocean and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Further exploration and studies will offer even more clues about the potential habitability of this mysterious moon.
– Science article publication
– NASA and ESA missions