Jupiter’s moon hosts key ingredient to life
September 27, 2023 - Images from the James Webb Space Telescope reveal that Jupiter’s moon Europa may hold carbon dioxide in the ocean beneath its icy shell, meaning it could harbour conditions suitable for life.
Europa is one of a handful of worlds in our solar system that could potentially sustain life. Previous research has shown that beneath its water-ice crust lies a salty ocean of liquid water with a rocky seafloor, with salt detected at the surface by Hubble in 2019.
Two independent studies, based on images from JWST, have now concluded that frozen crystals of carbon dioxide found on the surface of Europa originated in the ocean, and not from any external source. The highest concentrations were found in an area known as Tara Regio, a geologically young area of “chaos terrain”, so called because when plumes of warmer water rise to the surface the ice melts, breaks and refreezes, forming chaotic patterns and angles.
The rising water, it is suspected, brings carbon dioxide, salt and other material to the surface, much like deep ocean hydrothermal vents on Earth.
- NASA’s Webb Finds Carbon Source on Surface of Jupiter’s Moon Europa (NASA)
- Jupiter’s mysterious moon Europa may hold carbon in the ocean lurking beneath its icy shell (Scientific American)
- The Webb telescope finds key Ingredients for life on Jupiter’s moon Europa (Inverse)
- The Distribution Of CO2 On Europa Indicates An Internal Source Of Carbon (Science)
- Europa Ocean Moon (NASA)