Astronomy

Life on Europa



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What are the implications for our planet Earth if life is found on Europa?  Europa is a moon of Jupiter that scientists believe has an ocean underneath it's icy crust.  This is profound stuff, and NASA should have the exploration of this moon at the top of their hit list, if it doesn't already.  What would this mean?  Would this affect life on Earth, and how?

These questions are very, very important and the prediction is within the next decade we may know the results.  First, some facts about Europa.  Europa orbits Jupiter, and Jupiter is the next planet beyond Mars as one heads out of the solar system.  Naturally, it is quite cold out there, and Europa's temperatures are way below zero.  But that is when the crust of the moon is measured.  The reality is that the ocean below the crust is actually being heated by the interior of the moon itself.  How does this work?  As Europa proceeds about in it's orbit, the orbit is not a perfect circle.  So the gravitational pull from the monster planet Jupiter actually heats up Europa, as the friction causes heat.  This heat is enough to enable an ocean to remain liquid beneath the surface of Europa, and this ocean is believed to have life within it.  We already know that the heating process affects the inner moon of Jupiter, Io.  In fact, Io has huge volcanoes and because Io is so close to Jupiter, the gravitational effect on this moon is so severe that Io's surface undulates!

There are already ocean exploration machines that are being built in order to discover what is beneath the surface of Europa.  The mission would send a robotic craft to the surface of Europa, then actually drill through the ice until the ocean is reached.  Radio controlled robotic craft would dig down through the ice, carefully meandering it's way until liquid water is reached.  Then the craft would act like a submarine and test for any form of life that exists.  We don't know for sure if there is life, but the odds are good that life can exist.  We already know that life exists here on Earth in very hostile environments.  Extreme ocean heat vents way below the surface of our oceans have life where none before were known to exist!  Life, or microbes to be precise, can exist in radiation tainted waters.  So life is quite adaptable, and Europa shouldn't be any different.

If life is found on Europa, then we can be assured that the NASA budget would be increased by a huge margin!  Man would finally know that he is not alone in the universe, and this would lend more credence to the theory of life on other planets.  Most people believe that we are not alone in this vast universe, but we would finally have proof that other forms of life exist on other worlds besides Earth.  How profound is this?  Very, very profound indeed!

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