Europa, with an ocean hidden under a thick shell of ice, has long been considered as a potential habitat for extraterrestrial life in our solar system, alongside other candidates such as Mars and the moon Enceladus of Saturn. A new study presented Wednesday at a conference geoscience highlights its potential.
The ocean of Europe, may be formed after the water-rich minerals have ejected their water as a result of heating caused by decay of radioactive elements inside his country at the beginning of its history, discovered the researchers.
The effect of the tides caused by the gravitational interactions of Europa with Jupiter – the largest planet in the solar system – and two other large jovian moons by galileo, Io and Ganymede, may also have played a role.
“We believe that the ocean to Europe may have been habitable early in its formation, since our models show that the composition of the ocean was perhaps slightly acid, containing carbon dioxide and sulphate salts,” said Mohit Melwani Daswani, a specialist in planetary sciences, Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA. leader of the study.
“The availability of liquid water is the first step towards habitability. In addition, the chemical exchanges between the ocean and the interior rocky may have been important in the past, so that the potential for life would have been able to use chemical energy to survive. ”
Daswani said that the microbes were related to bacteria of the Earth that use the carbon dioxide for the energy would have been able to survive by using ingredients available in the first oceans of Europe.
Europa is slightly smaller than the moon of the earth. The ocean of Europa, may be 40 to 100 miles (65 to 160 km) deep, may contain double the amount of water in the oceans of the Earth.
The study assessed whether Europa was previously living and has not reviewed its habitability now, a question that researchers are currently exploring.
“A word of warning,” said Melwani Daswani. “If a place is habitable, it does not mean that it is actually inhabited, but simply that the conditions could allow the survival of some life forms is extremely robust as we know it on Earth. ”
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Edited by Sandra Maler)