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Water Vapor on Europa: Indication of Extraterrestrial life?

Scientist found water vapor on Jupiter’s moon Europa

After mars and K2-18b, it is Europa that is still igniting our quest for life outside Earth. NASA‘s scientists have detected water vapor around Jupiter’s moon, Europa. If Europa has other essential life ingredients like chemicals (oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen) and energy, then life on Europa is not so far. The investigation on Europa had begun since 2012.

Europa is Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon

Interestingly, Europa is named after a woman who, in Greek mythology, was abducted by God Zeus (Jupiter in Roman mythology). Europa, Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, is somewhat smaller than Earth’s moon and hardly one-quarter diameter of Earth itself. As per the speculations, Europa’s surface is mostly covered with solid water ice. This icy surface of Europa makes it one among the most reflective in the solar system. Similarly, the surface of Europa has crisscrossed patterns made by fractures. On average the distance of Europa from the sun is about 780 million kilometers.

Is there a possibility of life on Europa?

As we know, water in liquid form is the basic foundation for life other than energy and chemicals. NASA always has water as its vanguard for their hunt for life. If liquid water does subsist underneath Europas’s surface, it paves the way for the possibility of life on Europa. Unlike other essential elements for life, water is an ingredient that is difficult to find in other planets other than Earth.

‘Water Vapor on Europa’ is a Big Discovery

NASA caught a glimpse of water vapor on Europa in 2012, using the Hubble Space Telescope. They spotted something that seems to be like a gas exploding from the surface of Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Afterward, they realized that it might be water plume jetting from Europa’s South Polar Region. A research team spotted this plume again in 2014 as well as in 2016 using satellite imagery of Europa. They found that the water released from Europa is enough to fill an Olympic size swimming pool. However, they have not yet confirmed the plumes, however, they believe that there may be a chance for life on Europa. The scientists assume that there may be a liquid water ocean beneath Europa’s frozen surface. Another discovery NASA that surprised the world recently was on the planet K-2 18B. NASA discovered this Earth-like planet in 2015.

Mere Speculations?

  • The water plume on Europa infrequent and is in unstable amounts.
  • NASA’s team made only a vague detection of water vapor on Europa in 2016 and 2017.
  • Similarly, Europa has only thin oxygen. Thin in a sense, far too thin for a human to respire.
  • Albeit there is the possibility of life, life may be hard on Europa due to the extreme level of radiation that it obtains from Jupiter.

Europa Clipper Mission- 2020

Currently, in 2020, NASA is preparing for a Europa Clipper mission. They will conduct an in-depth analysis of Europa’s surface through a series of flyby with a spacecraft orbiting Jupiter because the radiation around Europa is too fierce for any craft to resist. If we could establish the existence of plumes and its link with the subsurface ocean, studying their components would help in confirming the assumption on presence life on Europa. Obviously, Europa Clipper Mission would be the foremost fanatical and comprehensive study of an ocean world outside Earth.

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