This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 18 November, 2018
Advertisement

Evidence of 'shallow lakes' found on Jupiter moon Europa

Scientists believe they have found evidence of liquid water beneath the surface of Jupiter’s ice-covered moon – indicating a potential habitat for life outside Earth.

Scientists have found possible evidence of liquid water on Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa
Scientists have found possible evidence of liquid water on Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa
Image: AP/Press Association Images

SCIENTISTS HAVE UNCOVERED possible evidence of shallow lakes beneath the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa.

The presence the liquid water, thought to be equal in volume to the North American Great Lakes, may point towards a potential habitat for life outside Earth.

Results published in the journal Nature, by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, detail an analysis of the surface of Europa that suggests a body of water exists just 3kms below the surface.

Europa has long held the fascination of scientists because of its so-called “chaos terrains” – ridges and cracks in the moon’s surface that, theoretically, could point towards the existence of water.

In the 1990s NASA’s Galileo probe, launched by the space shuttle Atlantis in 1989 to Jupiter, found evidence of a deep ocean far beneath the moon’s surface, which raised hopes about a possible habitat for life. The ocean discovered beneath Europa’s surface contains more water than all of the Earth’s oceans combined – although the surface is completely frozen because of its distance from the sun.

Uploaded by clarksvilletenn via YouTube/University of Texas at Austin


After the discovery of Europa’s ocean, scientists pointed out that organic compounds would need a way of rising to the surface of the moon in order for the environment to support life: this latest discovery could provide that link due to the way subsurface lakes and channels form.

Britney Schmidt, lead author of the paper and postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Geophysics, University of Texas at Austin, said: ”Now, we see evidence that it’s a thick ice shell that can mix vigorously and new evidence for giant shallow lakes. That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable.”

NASA is considering sending an investigatory mission to Europa as a result of the discovery.

“The data opens up some compelling possibilities,” said Mary Voytek, director of NASA’s Astrobiology Program at agency headquarters in Washington. “However, scientists worldwide will want to take a close look at this analysis and review the data before we can fully appreciate the implication of these results.”

Jupiter has a total of 64 named moons, the four largest of which are classed as Galilean moons. Europa is the smallest Galilean moon.

Evidence of 'shallow lakes' found on Jupiter moon Europa
1 / 3
  • Jupiter's moon Europa

  • Jupiter's moon Europa

  • Jupiter's moon Europa

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Read next:

COMMENTS (17)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel