Jupiter’s satellite could host life – Impressive findings from the Europa Clipper robotic spacecraft


The unnatural similarity between the morphology of Europe’s soil (Jupiter’s fourth largest satellite) and Greenland makes scientists believe that this planet could host life.

A study published today examined the similarities between double ridges that look like huge cracks on the surface of Europe and a smaller version in Greenland, which were investigated using ice-penetrating radar.

“If you cut one and looked at the cross section, it would look a bit like the capital letter M,” said Riley Kalberg, a geophysicist at Stanford University who co-authored the study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Radar data collected in Greenland showed that successive groundwater freezing led to the formation of the double ridge. If in the case of Jupiter’s satellite formed in the same way, this could signal the presence of a large amount of water – a basic condition for life – near the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon.

In the search for extraterrestrial life, Europe has attracted the attention of scientists as one of the locations in our solar system that may be inhabited, possibly by microbes, because of an underground ocean thought to contain salt. The numerous water pockets near the surface represent a second possible habitat.

NASA’s Europa Clipper robotic spacecraft is expected to be launched in 2024 to investigate whether this particular Jupiter satellite has conditions suitable for life.

At 3,100 kilometers in diameter, Europe is the fourth largest of Jupiter’s 79 known satellites. It is slightly smaller than the Moon, but larger than Pluto. Europe’s ocean can have twice as much water as Earth’s. The first life forms on Earth were marine microbes, according to scientists.

Europe’s double ridges, which sometimes stretch for hundreds of kilometers, are usually around 150-200 meters high, with the peaks about 0.5-1 km apart.

Kalberg was impressed by their resemblance to an area of ​​southwest Greenland – which he knew – which has peaks just two meters high, about 50 meters apart and less than a kilometer apart.

“Greenland’s double ridge was formed by the successive freezing, compression and breaking of a pouch of water near the surface,” Kalberg said.

If Europe’s double ridges were created by the same procedure, then it is estimated that any associated amount of water could correspond to one of North America’s Great Lakes.

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