Washington (Reuters)-Scientists have figured out how the underground ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa formed, and determined that this huge water area may have been able to support the life of microorganisms in the past.
Europa’s ocean is hidden under a thick ice shell. For a long time, it has been considered as a potential habitat for extraterrestrial life in our solar system, just like other candidates such as Mars and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. A new study published at the Earth Science Conference on Wednesday emphasized its potential.
The researchers found that due to the heat generated by the decay of the internal radioactive elements of the water-rich minerals in its early history, the Europa ocean may have formed after the water-rich minerals spewed out of the water.
The tidal effects caused by the gravitational interaction between Europa and Jupiter (the largest planet in the solar system) and the other two large Jupiter moons Io and Ganymede may also play a role.
Planetary scientist Mohit Melvani Daswani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said: “We think that the Europa ocean may be inhabitable early in its formation, because our model shows that the composition of the ocean may be It’s just moderately acidic and contains carbon dioxide and some sulfates.” The person in charge of the research.
“Obtaining liquid water is the first step towards habitability. In addition, in the past, the chemical exchange between the ocean and the interior of the rock may have been very important, so potential life may have been able to survive using chemical energy.”
Daswani said that microorganisms similar to certain earth bacteria that use carbon dioxide as an energy source can survive using the ingredients available in the early Europa ocean.
Europa is a little bit smaller than the moon of the earth. Europa’s ocean may be as deep as 40 to 100 miles (65 to 160 km), and its water surface may be twice that of the earth’s ocean.
This study assessed whether Europa was previously habitable and did not study its current habitability, which is a question the researchers are exploring.
“Warning,” Melwani Daswani said. “If a place is habitable, it does not mean that it is actually inhabited, but that the conditions can enable some extremely difficult life we know on earth to survive.”
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)