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Space Science

Discovery Increases Odds of Life On Europa 164

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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  • 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 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...

  • 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.
  • 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?

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:28PM (#43087823) Homepage Journal

    You can aerobrake with Jupiter to get you into a descent path for the moon using almost no fuel

    You are understating the difficulty. Aerobraking will leave you in a highly elliptical orbit with a significant velocity difference to Eurpoa where it crosses the orbit of Europa. It might be possible to circularise that orbit with slingshots among the moons, but that would take years. Also there is a significant hazard from meteors going so close to Jupiter, and an extreme radiation hazard.

  • Re:Jelly fish (Score:3, Insightful)

    by physburn ( 1095481 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @07:18AM (#43090943) Homepage Journal
    It would be extermely interesting biochemically, would probably be made up of different organic compound than earth life.

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