For a few years now, Europe has become one of the most tangible targets for searching for living things in our solar system. Despite its distance from the sun, this satellite is protected by a thick outer layer of ice and then has a huge ocean of liquid water inside.
We are recently discovering that this outer layer of ice is not just a crust, but a dynamic system and a site of habitability in its own right. Several radar observations indicate that it may contain an abundance of pockets of water, just like the “double edge” we have here in Greenland.
“Because it’s closer to the surface, where interesting chemicals are sourced from space, other moons and Io’s volcanoes, there’s a chance that life could have a chance if there are pockets of water in the crust,” he said. Dustin Schroeder, assistant professor of geophysics at Stanford University. “If the mechanism we see in Greenland is similar to that in Europe, there may be water everywhere.”
Rather than acting as a mass of inert ice, Europa’s shell appears to be subject to a variety of geological and hydrologic processes, including the presence of water plumes erupting at the surface. The dynamic ice crust supports habitability by facilitating the exchange between the subsurface ocean and nutrients for nearby celestial bodies accumulating at the surface.
“We are another hypothesis on top of many: We only have the advantage that our hypothesis has some observations of similar feature formation on Earth to support it,” the study authors said. To express their confidence that something can actually be found there.
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