Unleashing Curiosity, Igniting Discovery - The Science Fusion

Jupiter’s moon Europa is roofed by an icy shell

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Jupiter’s moon Europa could also be much less ripe for all times than we thought. Though it has an ocean of water beneath its icy shell, the frigid moon could also be in need of the oxygen essential to maintain life as we all know it.

Oxygen is produced on Europa when radiation hits its floor and splits the water ice there into its constituent components, hydrogen and oxygen. Fashions of that course of have instructed the speed of oxygen manufacturing may very well be anyplace from 5 to over 1000 kilograms per second.

Jamey Szalay at Princeton College and his colleagues used knowledge from the Juno spacecraft, which flew simply 353 kilometres above Europa’s floor in 2022, to make a brand new estimate. They discovered oxygen is just being produced at a price of about 12 kilograms per second on the floor – proper on the low finish of earlier estimates.

“In some sense, the shell is sort of a lung for Europa. It’s constantly producing oxygen,” says Szalay. “That being mentioned, we are able to’t communicate to what occurs after the oxygen is produced on the floor – it’s nonetheless a query how a lot of it might get into the ocean.”

But when there may be much less oxygen being produced within the first place, much less of it would make its method into Europa’s waters. Which will lower the chance of researchers discovering organisms much like these residing on Earth there.

One of many subsequent steps is to determine how a lot of that oxygen can seep via the alien moon’s icy shell. NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, deliberate to launch in October, ought to assist us work that out. It is going to measure the thickness of the ice and hopefully make it potential to find out whether or not parts and compounds helpful for all times might go via.

Matters:

  • moons/
  • extraterrestrial life
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