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Life on Jupiter’s moon Europa?  The new findings awaken hope

Life on Jupiter’s moon Europa? The new findings awaken hope

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Jupiter’s moon Europa is considered a suitable candidate for life in the solar system. (Archive photo) © IMAGO/Cover Images

Researchers have discovered carbon on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This discovery may be evidence of the existence of life.

BALTIMORE – Jupiter’s moon Europa is considered a possible site for life within our solar system. Therefore, NASA plans to send the Europa Clipper mission to this icy moon next year. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, has previously taken a look at this magnificent moon. Scientists are now able to gain insights from this data.

There appears to be carbon dioxide in a certain area on Europa’s icy surface. The discovery of carbon is always particularly noteworthy in research, because carbon is the basic building block of life. Another discovery by the research teams: The carbon likely comes from the known subsurface ocean of Jupiter’s moon and was not brought to the surface by external sources such as meteorites.

Moon ice
An ice crust 20-30 kilometers thick, under which there is an ocean of liquid salt water
628,300,000 km
January 7, 1610
Galileo Galilei, which is why the moon is considered one of the four Galilean moons

Carbon on Jupiter’s moon Europa – ‘We are carbon-based life’

“On Earth, life loves chemical diversity, and the more diversity the better. We are carbon-based life. Understanding the chemistry of Europa’s ocean will help us determine whether it is hostile to life as we know it,” said Geronimo Villanueva of Goddard Space Flight Center and lead author. Or whether it could be a good place to live.” One of the two studies to new data.

“We now believe we have evidence that the carbon we see on the surface of Europa comes from the ocean. This is not a trivial matter. Carbon is a biologically essential element,” adds Samantha Trumbo of Cornell University, lead author of the book. Second studywhere new “Webb” data was analyzed.

What is the volume of exchange between Europe’s ocean and the surface?

The carbon dioxide detected on the surface of Europe is located in the “Tara Reggio” region, which is a geologically young area where ice has broken off on the surface. An exchange of material between the subsurface ocean and the icy surface may have occurred here. “Previous observations by the Hubble Space Telescope showed that the salt comes from the ocean at Tara Reggio,” Trumbo explains. “Now we see that carbon dioxide is also highly concentrated there. We think this indicates that the carbon likely originated in the inland ocean.

Scientists have debated for some time just how extensive the exchange between Earth’s subsurface ocean and Europa’s surface was. “This suggests that we may be able to learn some basic things about the composition of the ocean even before we drill the ice to get a complete picture,” says study author Villanueva.

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The James Webb Space Telescope detected carbon dioxide on Jupiter’s moon Europa

Not only is the Tara Reggio region geologically young, the researchers suspect that carbon dioxide on Europa was deposited there “geologically more recently.” There is also a second reason: carbon dioxide is unstable on the surface of Jupiter’s moon. Therefore, according to scientists, it is likely that it appeared there only relatively recently in geological time.

To detect carbon dioxide over Europa, both research teams used data from the Webb NIRSpec instrument. The data provided by this device allows researchers to identify chemicals present on the surface. “These observations require only a few minutes of telescope time,” researcher Heidi Hamel explains in one of them notice. “Even in this short time, we have been able to achieve truly great scientific work. This work provides the first indication of all the amazing research we can do in the solar system using WEB.”

The research results will be used in the “Europa Clipper” and “Juice” missions.

The research results will flow not only to NASA’s “Europe Clipper” mission, but also to the European Space Agency’s “Juice” mission. “Juice” was launched in April 2023 to Jupiter and its large moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, and aims to examine them during several flybys. Found in the trade magazine Sciences Co-author Guillaume Croze-Merey says the published research results are “a great first result of what Webb will contribute to the study of Jupiter’s moons.” “I look forward to seeing what more we can learn about their surface properties from these and future observations.” (unpaid bill)

Automated assistance was used in writing this article by the editorial team. The article was carefully examined by editor Tanya Banner before publication.