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Space Science

Discovery Increases Odds of Life On Europa 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the new-life-and-new-civilizations dept.
tetrahedrassface writes "Observations of spectral emissions from the surface of Europa using state of the art ground based telescopes here on Earth have lent data that indicate the surface of the Jovian moon is linked with the vast ocean below. The observations carried out by Caltech's Mike Brown and JPL's Kevin Hand show that water is making it from the ocean below all the way up to the surface of the moon. In their study (PDF) they noticed a dip in the emission bands around lower latitudes of the moon, and quickly honed in on what they were seeing. The mineral of interest is epsomite, a magnesium sulfate compound that can only come from the ocean below. From the article: 'Magnesium should not be on the surface of Europa unless it's coming from the ocean,' Brown says. 'So that means ocean water gets onto the surface, and stuff on the surface presumably gets into the ocean water.' Not only does this mean the ocean and surface are dynamically interacting, but it also means that there may be more energy in the ocean than previously thought. Another finding is that the ocean below the icy surface of Europa is basically very similar to an ocean on Earth, giving the neglected and premier solar body for life past Earth another compelling reason for being explored."
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Discovery Increases Odds of Life On Europa

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  • "lent data"???

    "honed in"????

    • "lent data"??? "honed in"????

      Not sure what's up with "lent data". (Typo of "sent data"? Odd translation of an idiom from a non-English language?)

      I've heard the "honed in" misusage a lot. It seems to be a Mondegreen> from "homed in" (like a homing pigeon.) [wikipedia.org]

      • The Europans are fasting and observing penitence.

      • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:46PM (#43087981)

        "lent data"??? "honed in"????

        Not sure what's up with "lent data". (Typo of "sent data"? Odd translation of an idiom from a non-English language?)

        I've heard the "honed in" misusage a lot. It seems to be a Mondegreen> from "homed in" (like a homing pigeon.) [wikipedia.org]

        Lent is the past tense of lend. Data from one discovery was lent to a totally different theory.
        Honed in is fairly common usage when working toward a goal.

        The so called "translation" is from a language called English, with which it appears you are only tangentially acquainted.

        • by Cimexus (1355033)

          "Honed in" may be in common usage but that doesn't make it correct.

          One can hone a blade. In the same sense, one can hone their skills (in the sense of sharpening or improving them). However one cannot 'hone in' on something. It's a mishearing of "home in" (to zero in on/zoom in on/narrow a wider field down to) - a common one to be sure, but mistaken nonetheless.

          Nothing wrong with 'lent' though, as you say.

          • Re:language issues? (Score:4, Informative)

            by negablade (2745981) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @04:45AM (#43090165)
            'Hone' means to focus in or to work towards a specific goal, and is listed in reputable print dictionaries (i.e. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hone%20in [merriam-webster.com]). Honed in is the past tense of hone in. It is true that some people think it is wrong, and that opinion is open to debate, as it should be for any living language. But the deciding factor is whether the intent of the phase is understood by the majority of readers. Since it is in common use, it follows that it has become accepted phraseology.
            • Origin of HONE IN
              alteration of home in
              First Known Use: 1965

              So in the 2048 we will be able to look up "Interweb" as a fully accepted noun (but people will be too busy defending themselves against wave after wave of evil robots to care).

            • by hb253 (764272)

              No, "hone" does not mean to focus. Just because some people are ignorant doesn't mean everyone else needs to follow.

              I say "asswipe" now means "boss". You may proceed with my suggestion for evolution of the English language.

    • "giving the neglected and premier solar body for life past Earth another compelling reason for being explored" was rather tortutous to parse as well.
  • by Press2ToContinue (2424598) * on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:09PM (#43086947)

    and a series of flybys began in the 1970s. Pioneer 10 and 11 visited Jupiter in 1973 and 1974 respectively.

    Two Voyager probes traveled through the Jovian system in 1979 providing more detailed images of Europa's icy surface. The images caused many scientists to speculate about the possibility of a liquid ocean underneath.

    Starting in 1995, the Galileo probe began a Jupiter orbiting mission that lasted for eight years, until 2003, and provided the most detailed examination of the Galilean moons to date. It included, Galileo Europa Mission and Galileo Millennium Mission, with numerous close flybys of Europa.

    Neglected indeed.
    Not.

    (Paraphrased from Wikipedia)

    • Depends what you compare with. Justin Bieber certainly gets more attention... an unfortunate thing, really.

    • by tetrahedrassface (675645) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:22PM (#43087113) Journal

      It's very neglected compared to what we've sent to Mars isn't it? Now we are floating *another* rover while the data for Europa continues to build up to the point that we really should go there in a two part mission. One would be a dedicated orbiter, and then a landing...

      • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:30PM (#43087215) Homepage Journal

        The problem is that a Eurpoa rover would need to be powered by an RTG, which means you have to send a vehicle about the size of curiosity. So thats 1000kg that you have to land. Maybe the descent stage would be another 1000kg to get you from low orbit to the surface. Then that 2 tonne package has to be powered into the gravitational fields of Jupiter and Eurpoa. You are talking about a lot of fuel. Galileo just barely went into an elliptical orbit. In energy terms that is a long way from a landing. My rough guess is that the total mass of the vehicle would be 10 tonnes in low earth orbit. Maybe more.

        Maybe it could only be done with a proper fission reactor and ion drives.

        • Right, well the Planetary Society has proposed the JEO, Jupiter Europa Orbiter. That would be a great start to actually close enough to really see what's going on. Then we don't need or even have to land a super heavy rover on Europa. If we took data from the JEO and were smart about it, we could land a few very small probes to sample the surface of the ice where the upwellings occur.

          We have the capability to go there today, if we really wanted to. I guess it's just not politically expedient to go there,

          • We have the capability to go there today, if we really wanted to.

            I can't think about exploring Europa without getting that tingly sensation that I am being watched [wikipedia.org]:

            ALL THESE WORLDS
            ARE YOURS EXCEPT
            . . EUROPA
            . ATTEMPT NO
            .LANDING THERE

        • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:56PM (#43088059)

          The problem is that a Eurpoa rover would need to be powered by an RTG, which means you have to send a vehicle about the size of curiosity. So thats 1000kg that you have to land.

          Meh! Details....

          The day before Curiosity landed the general opinion here among the Slashdot Rocket Scientists that it had ZERO chance for success. Too complicated. Too Rube Goldberg. Parachutes, Rockets, and Skycranes! Such foolishness. Stupid arrogant NASA/JPL about to get their comeuppance.

          Well...

          • Yeah but in energy terms a landing on Europa is much harder because there is no atmosphere.

            • by icebike (68054)

              Bring more with you sir. You will need it.

            • by Zeromous (668365)

              Europa has a slight oxygen atmosphere. It may be relatively lightweight as far as atmosphere, but let's be precise and say, Europa actually has one.

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            Heh. What I like about the MSL pessimism is that most people didn't realize that literally the only new parts of the landing procedure were the sky crane at the end, and aerodynamic flight before parachute deploy.

            It's like they think Spirit and Opportunity were just dropping onto Mars from orbit and some measely air bags absorbed all that energy.

            But that's how Mission to Mars showed it, so I guess that's legit!

            • by Zeussy (868062)
              The Aerodynamic flight wasn't all that new. That was based on what the Apollo command module did on reentry. The sky crane engines were based off the ones that landed the Viking landers.
              • by Chris Burke (6130)

                Yeah, even some of the new parts weren't that new, though doing aerodynamic flight in Mars atmosphere counts as fairly new if not unprecedented.

                The Viking's last stage of descent was done entirely with retrorockets on the lander itself. The MER rovers used a rocket powered descent stage that then dropped the rovers in their airbag-lined shells only the last 10s of meters. MSL was closer to the MER rovers in this sense, however the Sky Crane part was still completely new.

            • Spirit and Opportunity were dropped from their "sky cranes" (yes, they had them too, but they weren't called sky cranes at the time) from several storeys up, and had to endure double digit G-forces as they bounced and rolled across the Martian surface. Spirit bounced 28 times and rolled nearly half a kilometer from its initial impact point before coming to a rest. Yes. If anything, Curiosity had it easy. It was placed ever so gently on the surface.
              • by Chris Burke (6130)

                Spirit and Opportunity were dropped from their "sky cranes" (yes, they had them too, but they weren't called sky cranes at the time) from several storeys up,

                They had a rocket-powered descent stage, but it wasn't a "sky crane" because it didn't lower them on a cable, ala a crane, thus why it wasn't called one.

                Yes. If anything, Curiosity had it easy. It was placed ever so gently on the surface.

                Easier on the rover by design/necessity, though more complicated for the EDL team. Not ridiculously so like everyone thought, but definitely a source of complication and stress.

                I didn't realize it when I was watching the EDL stream live, but later learned that they had agreed that, largely due to the public watching, they had to be careful how they called

        • by kwerle (39371)

          Except that Europa has slightly less gravity than our moon - more than 1/3 of mars. So I have to imagine it has no atmosphere to speak of. I would imagine that would make a Europa landing much more like a moon landing than the Mars landing. Of course Jupiter's gravity well is something to contend with - but at least you don't have to land there - just in the neighborhood. All in all, I imagine that a Europa landing would be easier than a Mars landing (assuming the surface is friendly, etc).

          • No atmosphere so no parachutes. Its a powered descent, unless you want to try lithobraking. In the future that may be an option. Consider landing a sled on smooth ice at 2 km/s.

            • Probably not that unreasonable if we had decent surface maps - which is really why we need an orbiter.

              • by kwerle (39371)

                With no atmosphere and such a great distance from the sun - and given that there is geological activity making its way to the surface, I have to imagine the surface is anything but smooth. I mean - that recipe is basically volcanic with no atmosphere to weather down the resulting mountains and debris.

                I doubt lithobraking is an option.

          • by Zeussy (868062)
            I can remember reading an article about how landing on mars was a bitch compared to the moon or earth. Earth has a descent amount of atmosphere, so you can rely on aero braking then parachute. On the moon you have no atmosphere so you can fire rocket engines in the direction your flying, and do a powered descent.

            Mars has the problem of so little atmosphere that aero braking barely slows you down to a speed where you can open a parachute and not have it ripped apart as you are still travelling at superson
        • The Falcon Heavy is rated for 53 metric tons LEO. Would that be enough?

        • by mooingyak (720677) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:32PM (#43088377)

          So thats 1000kg...

          Nobody ever says Megagram, or Megameter either for that matter. I for one would like to see that become commonplace.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Robotin parts that assemble themselves. So you land smaller parts.

          remember, we are talking about an organization that dropped a small car sized vehicle on mars using thrusters and a skyhook... autonomously.

          NASA isn't perfect, but if they said they where going to do X, I would put my money with them...unless X is get more money from congress.

  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:11PM (#43086971)

    It doesn't matter how well you do in your endeavours if we continuously push 'Chance of life' as a way to get the general public interested. How many times do you think the public can hear about 'Nope, nothing there' when the original headline was 'Amazing new possible discovery that will rock the foundations of the space program". Don't get me wrong, I find the concept of alien geology to be very interesting and love these stories, but please cut back on the 'hints/signs/rumor/promise of life' in headlines.

    Before anyone responds with "But we have to make it interesting for the unwashed masses...", I'm going to preempt that with the fact that you don't want space exploration to be relegated to the same 'Overhype/Overpromise' location in the collective consciousness currently reserved for late night infomercials and miracle health products.

    • by Grayhand (2610049)
      Why the assumption there is no life? There are strong signs on Mars that date bad to the Viking missions. Odds are any current life is subterranian but the conditions for life definitely existed in the early days of Mars. Europa has possible conditions now so long as there's an energy source it seems to have liquid water. Several other moons also have the potential so don't write off life so quick. Why is this important? If it happened twice in this same system then the odds of life outside of this system g
    • But wait! There's more! We'll throw in this miniature monolith absolutely free to the first 3,000 customers!

    • by geekoid (135745)

      I'm going to preempt that with the fact that you don't want space exploration to be relegated to the same 'Overhype/Overpromise' location in the collective consciousness currently reserved for late night infomercials and miracle health products.

      why not?

      Of course their only influence would be getting politician to focus on in more, but I'll set that aside.

  • "All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landings there." -- A. C. Clarke

    • It just occured to be that some parts of Europa are so flat that a vehicle in the form of a sled may be able to slide to a stop from orbital velocity.

    • by gmhowell (26755)

      Came for the 2001 reference. Left satisfied (Eventually. I mean, WTF, mentioning both 'Discovery' and 'Europa' in the title, and a 2001 reference wasn't the frost piss?)

      • by narcc (412956)

        I know! I posted this as the obvious 2010 references were conspicuously absent.

        (I should have waited as all it did was earn me a "redundant" mod! I suppose I could have replied out-of-context to the first post to push my comment closer to the top of the page -- that seems to be a popular strategy.)

        Oh, Slashdot!

  • A simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grayhand (2610049) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:38PM (#43087283)
    Just spread the rumor that Europan whales make the best sushi in the Universe and the Japanese will launch a mission to Europa within the year. As an added bonus Iceland would start a space program.
    • Liquid oxygen and kerosene is a reasonably common propellant, I wonder if anybody has worked out the piping challenges of getting your(totally steampunk) liquid oxygen and whale oil rocket off the ground?

    • that or Spock and Kirk will come back in time to save them.
    • And you've sentenced them to extinction by sushi?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        And you've sentenced them to extinction by sushi?

        When they're approaching they'll get a message reading:

        ALL THESE WORLDS
        ARE YOURS EXCEPT
        EUROPA
        ATTEMPT NO
        LANDING THERE
        THEY ARE NOT FOR SUSHI

    • Where do I contribute to Japan's space program? Sign me up!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All these worlds
    Are yours except
    Europa
    Attempt no
    Landing there

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:00PM (#43087513) Journal

    It's things like Europa and robots on Mars that make me want to punch the 'Cry, cry, we need to put a man back on the moon, because something!' crowd.

    Was the Apollo program a heroic piece of engineering? No question. But does the moon have any major virtues aside from being close enough to man-in-a-can with relatively primitive life support gear? It's a hostile, sterile rock with not a whisper of atmosphere(and conveniently close and well-lit for the telescope crew). We have basically no reason to suspect that it has, or ever had, anything approaching life. Mars is a practically shirtsleeves environment by comparison, and Europa is under serious suspicion of having some serious organic chemistry going down under the ice. What sort of grainy, sepia-toned nostalgia wankfest would have us putzing around the moon, again, when there is other cool stuff to poke at?

    • Short term, I agree completely. In the longer term, it may make sense to mine and refine minerals into construction materials for space vehicles on the moon. The smaller gravity well and lack of atmosphere may make it much cheaper to get construction materials into space from the moon rather than from Earth. Railgun launch into lunar orbit is an old idea.
    • by Jeremi (14640)

      Well, if nothing else, the moon would make a good location for a moon base. ;) If there was a practical way to mine rocket fuel on the moon, I think that could be a good refuelling/re-launching point for rockets bound for other parts of the solar system.

      Also, I understand that the far side of the moon would be a good location for telescopes that want to minimize EM pollution from Earth.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      there's plenty of other reasons to be on the moon. for one, a permanent settlement in a hollowed out moon makes for a perfect space dock / manufacturing facility, simplifying a lot of the engineering in building such a thing in space, and with a lot smaller gravity well to escape from. it makes a perfect stepping stone.

  • You can't really take that channel seriously anymore - its full of stuff like Mythbusters, Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs, , Dual Survival, Cash Cab etc
    Great entertainment but not real science.

  • If the guy who admits killing Pluto [amazon.com] finds life on another object.

  • The odds of finding life within (not ON) Europa are exactly the same as they were before. The conditions either are or are not conducive to life, whether we were aware of them or not. That life either does or does not exist, whether we were aware of it or not. (The place could be habitable, but uninhabited, so the two statements are not the same.)

    What has changed is our belief of just what those odds ARE. The residents of Europa, should they exist, are completely unaffected by this news... at least until we

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Nope.

      Gambling odds it the reference they are using; which is correct becasue when you talk about the odds in this scenerio we are using that in a risk/reward matrix to determine is the odds are high enough that their is life for us to undertake the rick of going their.

      Too swap it around, from the residents of Europe(if any), the odd we will go their just went up..again.

      Sometime words mean different things.

  • The mineral of interest is epsomite, a magnesium sulfate compound that can only come from the ocean below.

    So the great discovery on Europa are bath salts. Well I guess we do face an aging population, perhaps this will get a good push from all the AARP crowd so they can soak comfortably.

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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