Tuesday, June 02, 2015
We're One Step Closer to Understanding a Moon That Could Be Home to Alien Life
I love to write about space and aliens. I am hoping that I live long enough where NASA actually finds alien life forms in out solar system. That would prove once and for all that we are not alone in space. That would prove that life is a process and not some weird and obscure accident. Even microbes would prove that life can be found anywhere in the universe.
So I keep up on articles such as the one below that show we may finally know if there is some life in places in outer space. -Otto
From the Huff Post:
This week we are one step closer to understanding a world in our solar system that I believe has the best chance of supporting life beyond our own planet. NASA has details about what instruments a space probe to Jupiter's moon Europa will carry when it makes multiple flybys in the next decade.
I couldn't be more excited to be the project scientist of this mission. I first learned of Europa as a kid who made planets out of tennis balls covered in construction paper and masking tape and hung them from my bedroom ceiling on
Long Island. In 1979, the
twin Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past Jupiter and its moons. Though
not the largest moon of Jupiter, Europa was the most enigmatic: Voyager's
pictures showed a marking the bright icy surface, like a
Seeing the first Voyager 2 photos of Europa inspired the famous Carl Sagan to wonder whether the dark bands were mountain-like ridges or valley-like troughs. What do they say about the history of this world? I was fortunate to take Sagan's seminar course at
in 1985 and was fascinated by
the possibility of a watery ocean within Jupiter's moon Europa. It was
uncertain whether such an ocean would have frozen solid over time or could
persist today. Cornell University
To learn more, NASA sent the Galileo spacecraft past Europa a dozen times while orbiting Jupiter between 1996 and 2002. Galileo images showed Europa's surface to be mountain-like ridges and valley-like troughs. The patterns of the ridges and cracks suggest an ocean below that permits the ice shell to flex and break. Giant bulls-eye-like scars tell of large comets that collided with the moon, the impacts penetrating the icy shell to liquid water below. In places, the surface is broken into city-sized chunks that resemble giant ice floes.
In addition to its strange geology, Europa shows an unusual magnetic signature. The Galileo spacecraft's magnetic sensors detected a layer beneath Europa's surface that conducts electricity, betraying an underground saltwater ocean. It's that ocean that makes Europa particularly fascinating because of the distinct possibility that there could be life in these lightless waters. We don't expect whales or fish down there, but alien single-celled microorganisms could exist.
Other moons at Jupiter -- Ganymede and Callisto -- probably have oceans deep within. Saturn's tiny moon Enceladus spews water into space from geysers. But Europa's ocean provides the best case for life because it is the most likely to have had all three ingredients for life -- water and the elements needed to build organic molecules and chemical energy.
For the rest click here.