- In 1998 NASA’s Galileo spacecraft detected an ocean of water beneath the deep-frozen ice in Europa- among the 79 moons of Jupiter.
- This ocean of water probably hosts the living of microorganisms.
- According to a report in the Journal Nature on 27th Jan, due to the radiation of charged particles oxidant molecule production is possible, for creating a biosphere.
The search for life outside the Earth started many years ago, from our neighbouring planet Mars to Venus. But now scientists are starting their eyes elsewhere. Is there any existence of life on the moons of Jupiter?
According to the report of NASA’s Galileo spacecraft (1998), there may be probably an ocean of water, but it’s beneath the thick ice shell. Scientists think that this ice shell is about 15 to 20 kilometres thick and 60 to 150 kilometres deep. Europa is one-fourth the diameter of the Earth, so its ocean can contain as much as double the water of the Earth. This deep ocean is widely considered to be the most prominent place of life beyond the Earth. A most recent observation from the telescope of Hubble Space and after reanalysing the data of Galileo spacecraft (1998) scientists concluded that it’s possible that thin plumes of water are being ejected 100 miles above Europa’s surface. A research team of NASA November 2019 announced that water vapour has been detected for the first time above Europa’s surface.
Reason for existence of life
As we know, life needs three main requirements, Liquid water, Appropriate chemical elements, and Energy. Europa has sufficient water and chemical compounds, but an energy source has been difficult to confirm, according to the Astrobiologists ( scientists who study the origin, evolution and future of life in the universe). Because it’s impossible for a frozen moon to produce useful sources of energy for the necessary basic chemical reaction of life.
But according to the report in Journal Nature (Jan 27), Europa can contain plenty of biological fuel and there are enough charged particles that are raining down from neighbouring Jupiter.
Due to this relentless radiation of charged particles, organic and oxidant molecule formation is possible which can fuel the creation of the Europan biosphere, written by Christopher Chyba, Associate professor ( research) of Geological and Environmental science.
Carbon is required as a basic building element of life to create everything from cells to DNA. Many organisms took their energy from carbon-based compounds like sugar also.
According to Chyba, photosynthesis is not possible on Europa like on Earth because sunlight would not be able to provide enough energy to sustain life on Europa, since its ocean is under the thick ice layer.
Due to the strongest magnetic field of Jupiter, when protons, electrons and other particles get trapped in Jupiter’s atmosphere they are accelerated to extremely high velocities. When these particles slam over the icy surface of the moon, transform frozen molecules of water and carbon dioxide into new organic compounds. This radiation also helps to form oxygen and hydrogen peroxide, which will help to create the biosphere.
But Chyba also notes that this formation of oxidant and organic molecules on the frigid surface will be biologically relevant when they will reach the ocean.
The recent photograph taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft reveals that there is a sudden melt in ice, that could allow oceanic microbes to get quick contact with these oxidant and organic food sources.
But in the end, all these theories of life on Europa depend on the existence of a water ocean under the frigid surface of the moon.
To answer all these questions and to collect more information about Jupiter’s moon the European Space Agency is planning to send “Jupiter Icy Moon’s Explorer (Juice)” a spacecraft to Jupiter in 2022, which will arrive by 2029. It will collect information of Europa and Callisto before entering into the orbit of Ganymede from 2032 to 2034. This will be the first spacecraft that will be placed In the orbit of a moon other than Earth’s moon.
According to the scientists, If eventually there will be existantance of life at Europa, then it will be like microbes or something more complex and it will be reasonable to suspect that life will spring up anywhere in this universe where it gets all the necessary ingredients.