Can Europa Sustain Life? NASA Scientists Figure It Out

By Dipannita - 23 May '16 14:21PM
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Despite the absence of volcanic hydrothermal activity, oceans on Jupiter's moon Europa might have the chemical balance similar to the one that the earth has. These are the findings of a new study conducted by NASA.

The researchers believe that this balance of chemical energy in the Europa's ocean might be enough to sustain life. Based on the study findings, the team suspects that there could be a huge ocean of salty liquid hidden beneath Europa's ice cold surface.

Europa and the conditions that exist there have been a subject of interest to a number of astronomers and scientists attempting to identify the signs of life on other celestial objects. In the recent study, a team of researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) compared Europa's capacity to produce oxygen and hydrogen with the Earth's capacity.

The team directly looked at the process that produces these gases without the requirement of any volcanic activity. Since oxygen and hydrogen are the two elements that indicate the presence of energy required to sustain life, the researchers specifically focused on them.

The analysis found that the ratio of production of these gases is quite similar. That is, both on Europa and Earth, oxygen production is 10 times higher than the production of hydrogen. The study findings, thus, suggest that Europa's rocky interiors could be more Earth-like than previously thought.

According to Steve Vance, the lead author of the study, the researchers are using the same process used to study the movement of nutrients and energy on Earth to study Europa's ocean. The planetary scientist believes that just like Earth, the cycling of hydrogen and oxygen in the Europa ocean will play a major role in sustaining any form of life.

The complete details of the study have been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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