The grooves that cut across the icy surface of the moon Europa show shallow pockets of water underneath, scientists said on April 19.
Jupiter’s moon Europa has long been a candidate for the search for extraterrestrial life, as its vast underground ocean is thought to contain liquid water – a key ingredient for life.
There’s a problem: this super ocean is estimated to be 25 to 30 kilometers deep beneath the moon’s icy crust. However, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communicationswater may be closer to Europa’s surface than scientists thought.
The discovery came by chance when geophysicists were studying an iceberg in Greenland. “We were studying something completely different with regard to climate change and its impact on the surface of Greenland when we saw tiny double ridges,” said study lead author Dustin Schroeder, Professor of Geography. physics at Stanford University, said.
They found that the M-shaped ice caps in Greenland looked like miniature versions of the giant double ridges on Europa, the most common feature on Jupiter’s icy moon. These twin ridges were first photographed by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the 1990s, but little is known about how they were formed.
Scientists used ice-penetrating radar to look at Greenland’s ridges and found that they form when pockets of water below the surface freeze and fault.
“This is especially exciting, because scientists have been studying the double ridges on Europa for more than 20 years and have yet to come up with an exact answer as to how they form. This is the first time we’ve seen them. see something similar happening on Earth and actually observe the subsurface processes that lead to the formation of ridges,” study co-author Riley Culberg at Stanford University told AFP.
If Europa’s double ridges also formed in this way, it would suggest that shallow pockets of water must have been or are still extremely common on Jupiter’s moon.
According to the team’s calculations, Europa’s water pockets could be buried 5 km below the moon’s ice crust. That depth would be much easier to reach than the subterranean super ocean.
“In particular, if such pockets of water form when ocean water is forced up through cracks into the ice crust, it is possible that they will hold evidence of any life in that ocean,” Culberg said. know more.
Schroeder believes that water closer to the surface will contain more interesting chemicals, increasing the possibility of life.
We may not have to wait long to learn more about this finding. NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, scheduled to launch in 2024, will feature an ice-scanning radar instrument similar to that used to study Greenland’s double ridges.
The spacecraft is unlikely to find real evidence of life as it will not land on Europa, instead just fly by and analyze, but it still offers a lot of hope.
“If there is life in Europa, it is almost entirely independent of the origin of life on Earth. That means that the origin of life must be fairly easy across the Milky Way and beyond.” scientist Robert Pappalardo of the Europa Clipper project emphasized.
Doan Duong (According to AFP)
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