If you've ever found yourself wanting to know if there's extraterrestrial life on Europa, this latest study into the Jovian moon's icy crust should whet your appetite.
Using data from the powerful Keck II Telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawai'i, astronomers Mike Brown, of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and Kevin Hand, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), have found strong evidence that suggests chemicals from Europa's sub-surface ocean are leaking to the surface. In turn, chemicals from the surface are likely cycling into the ocean too. The research has been published in the Astrophysical Journal.
This discovery is profound when considering the live-giving potential of one of Jupiter's largest moons - it is further proof that the sub-surface ocean isn't cut off from the surface; chemicals are cycling into the ocean, potentially supporting a hypothetical Europan biosphere.
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"We now have evidence that Europa's ocean is not isolated - that the ocean and the surface talk to each other and exchange chemicals," said Brown, in a Caltech press release. "That means that energy might be going into the ocean, which is important in terms of the possibilities for life there. It also means that if you'd like to know what's in the ocean, you can just go to the surface and scrape some off."