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Dublin: 10°C Friday 16 April 2021

Is there life on Jupiter's moons? Ireland's helping to find out

A former NASA scientist will speak in Dublin tonight about the missions.

Source: universitycollegeox/YouTube

JUPITER IS THE brightest ‘star’ in the sky at the moment, as the planet is nice and close to earth this month.

But did you know that there are two billion-euro missions planned for the planet?

One, the JUICE mission, was given approval by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Science Programme Committee for its implementation phase last November. It aims to launch in 2022 to explore the planet and its icy moons, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto (which are potentially habitable).

One person who knows a huge amount about Jupiter and these missions is Dr Leigh Fletcher, who worked for NASA and now has a post at Oxford University where he uses the Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting the ringed planet Saturn.

He’s being brought to Dublin tonight by Astronomy Ireland to give a talk about these missions.

The Cassini spacecraft project is a joint mission by NASA and the ESA (of which Ireland is a member).

Life on Jupiter’s moons

So why is there speculation that Jupiter’s moons could harbour life?

Astronomy Ireland says that at least two of the moons are thought to have warm oceans full of organic material. Those are the conditions on Earth that helped form life on this very planet.

Dr Fletcher will talk about the Cassini mission, and also about the money spent on work by scientists on finding out if there is life ‘out there’.

He’ll also detail the discoveries made by all the previous missions to the outer planets, and look at what might be discovered in the future.

Astronomy Ireland held a Telescope Watch last week to enable people to take a peek at Jupiter, and it’ll be doing it all again on 3 March.

The talk will take place tonight at 8pm at the Physics Building in Trinity College Dublin. All are welcome to attend, including families. Tickets (€10 or €5 concession) on the door, or phone 086 06 46 555 for bookings.

Read: 5 incredible supernovas captured in space (and how you could spot one too)>

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