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Europa's Ocean Chemistry Could Be Earth-Like (discovery.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes: Alien life in the universe could be close to home, swimming around Europa's ocean. The idea has been floating around scientific minds for more than a decade: beneath the icy surface of the Jovian moon could slosh a deep, wide ocean with the perfect environment for life to develop. In new research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, NASA scientists studied how the chemical composition of the Europan ocean may have evolved and what chemicals it possibly contains, assuming similar geochemical processes as on Earth are at play. Europa is thought to possess a rocky core fractured with deep cracks that have filled with water. Since the formation of the moon, the core has continued to cool, creating more cracks and exposing more rocks to chemical processes with this water."We're studying an alien ocean using methods developed to understand the movement of energy and nutrients in Earth's own systems," said planetary scientist Steve Vance, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The cycling of oxygen and hydrogen in Europa's ocean will be a major driver for Europa's ocean chemistry and any life there, just it is on Earth."
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Europa's Ocean Chemistry Could Be Earth-Like

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  • by headkase ( 533448 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2016 @05:32PM (#52138031)

    Life is a process and any substrate that facilitates that process qualifies as "alive." See: Code of the Lifemake [wikipedia.org] for a illustration of that.

  • Time for a reminder (Score:5, Informative)

    by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2016 @05:39PM (#52138077)

    "All these worlds are yours, except Europa. ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE."

  • Over a decade? (Score:3, Informative)

    by flyhigher ( 643174 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2016 @05:53PM (#52138151)

    This was hinted at much longer than a decade ago:

    "The idea that Europa and other ice-covered bodies in our solar system might possess an ocean of liquid water under a crust of ice was first proposed by John S. Lewis in his paper Satellites of the Outer Planets: Their Physical and Chemical Nature (which appeared in Icarus, vol.15, 1971)." (source: https://www.math.washington.ed... [washington.edu])

    And I recall Carl Sagan talking about life on Europa in his Cosmos television show, back in the 80s.

    But astrobiology has come a long way since then. I'm halfway through Nick Lane's "The Vital Question" and he goes into detail about the mechanisms which can form complex cellular structures given nothing but alkaline water, hydrocarbons, rock (to supply catalysts), and an energy source.

  • I wouldn't know if there is life, but it sure looks like [birdstrike.it] it hit something pretty big [wikimedia.org]... I doubt it's alive now

    • The reason Europa looks like that is because Jupiter has enough mass that tidal force from them are constantly squeezing and stretching the moon. Creating those features.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2016 @07:26PM (#52138521)

    Why do we keep getting these articles about Europa devoid of any new science? Let me know when someone actually gets some new measurements or, for Christ’s sake, sends a probe to collect samples.

  • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2016 @09:14PM (#52138879)

    The idea has been floating around scientific minds for more than a decade

    More than a decade? As I recall this was a major plot element of 2010, Odyssey Two, published in 1982. No doubt the idea originated considerably earlier. So, more than three decades at least.

  • Ocean chemistry is earth-like-- complete with all the plastic trash and oil and other debris?!

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama