One of the most vexing questions we try to answer in our exploration of space and the Universe is “Are we alone?” Scientists, artists, and average people wonder what form alien life might take, when we might encounter it, and how close it is.
It might be closer than most of us think, and it might not live above ground. Astrologists and geophysicists have discovered evidence that life might live underwater on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
Space marine life
Space scientists have widely considered Europa as another viable place in our solar system for life to occur. This came about when space probes and Earth-based telescopes discovered evidence of deep oceans 10 to 15 miles beneath the moon’s icy surface.
A team from Stanford looked at Europa and noticed that the giant parallel ice ridges running all along its surface were very similar to those on Earth’s own ice-covered Greenland. These formed when water from underground froze and fractured the surface repeatedly, driving the ridges up. The team believes that on Europa water is being forced up from its seas through the surface ice.
While it is only about a quarter the size of Earth, scientists believe Europa has more than twice as much water as our planet. The kind of water movement the Stanford team suspects could create the necessary circulation of chemicals to support life in Europa’s ice-covered oceans.
“Liquid water near to the surface of the ice shell is a really provocative and promising place to imagine life having a shot,” said Dustin Schroeder, a geophysics professor at Stanford University, to The Guardian. “The idea that we could find a signature that would suggest a promising pocket of water like this might exist, I think, is very exciting.”
Much more research and observation are needed to understand some of the remaining mysteries of Europa’s ice ridges and the possibility of its subsurface sea life.
NASA’s Europa Clipper mission will launch in 2024 and hopefully illuminate the mystery of how the ridges formed and whether the moon’s conditions could support life.