The Tidal Waves Under Icy Europa May Hint at Life

Posted by Michael Pinto on Dec 17, 2008 in Science |

The icy surface of Europa, the moon of Jupiter as seen from the Voyager spacecraft in 1996

When most scientists thought of the one place in our solar system outside Earth that may support life the common favorite was Titan, but now that honor may go to the Europa the other sister moon of Jupiter. Astronomers feel that underneath it’s icy surface may lurk energetic oceans which due to the gravity from Jupiter would feature tides — a key ingredient to making life possible:

Jupiter Moon Has Violent, Hidden Oceans, Study Suggests

“Locked under ice, the hidden oceans of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, may be tumultuous rather than placid, a new study says. Such oceanic unrest translates into a higher potential for life. Robert Tyler, an oceanographer from the University of Washington, has used computer simulations to show that Jupiter’s effects on its moon Europa may work differently than scientists once thought.

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft investigated Jupiter and its moons between 1989 and 2003, and sent data indicating that Europa’s ocean could be salt water. “That doesn’t necessarily mean sodium chloride [salt],” Tyler said. “It could be magnesium sulfate, basically an Epsom bath.” Jeff Kargel, a geologist affiliated with the University of Arizona in Tucson, suggested in the late 1990s that Europa’s salts may help it host life”.”

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