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Life on the Moons of Jupiter? 215

bcrafts writes "The ecological conditions in which microbes were found by researchers near the Antarctic underground freshwater Lake Vostok, have sparked more discussion inside of NASA, on a CNN report, other scientific groups,as well as other online sites about possible life on Jupiter's moon, Europa. "
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Life on the Moons of Jupiter?

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  • by grappler ( 14976 ) on Saturday December 11, 1999 @11:24AM (#1468831) Homepage

  • It would be nice to have a semi-close neighbour to exchange rare substances with.

    How long so you think it would be before we can play a baseball game against their team?

  • by BradyB ( 52090 ) on Saturday December 11, 1999 @11:25AM (#1468833) Homepage
    They should be pouring money into probes of Jupiter, because at least that planet and it's moon have at least some activity. Mars for all it's worth seems to be a dead planet. I'm not saying we'll find intelligent life in our own solar system, but it would be nice to try and find some life on a planet or moon that might be more capable of sustaining life than Mars?
  • Scientific American ran this as its cover story in its October 1999 issue. You guys should have picked it up from there, they write better stories than CNN.
  • Hypothesising that the surface will one day heat up to meet the surface temperature of our planet, I'd say, oh, somewhere within the range of 4.6 billion years, give or take a few eons.

    Now as soon as we can train OUR microbes to play baseball, we could get a game on.
  • In one of the Oddessy books (either 2010 or 2061, I don't remember which) by Arthur C. Clarke, didn't he put life on Europa? Some kind of plant things that lived under the frozen surface of the oceans, I think. I just thought I would point that out...
  • by rde ( 17364 ) on Saturday December 11, 1999 @11:28AM (#1468838)
    but I think it bears repeating, so I'll say it again.

    The discovery of life on Europa would more or less confirm the ubiquity of life. If microbes were found on Mars, they could have originated on Earth and moved to Mars (or vice versa), but the chances are low indeed (although admittedly not zero) of Earth and Europan life having a common origin.

    Having said that...

    The Vostok life forms show only that life can exist in such environments; it says nothing about life forming there. It may well be possible for existing life to adapt to a shitty environment (from our POV), but it would, to my untrained eye, be far more difficult for life to start there.
  • or else we might have some genocidal aliens commin into our solar system. i duno how those cute little microbes would handle being so close to a new sun ;)
  • by hadron ( 139 ) on Saturday December 11, 1999 @11:28AM (#1468840) Homepage
    NASA are planning to send a probe, the Europa Orbiter [] to study Europa in 2003, it should arrive in 2007.

    Europa does indeed look like the most likely spot for life in the solar system, and even if there is no native life, it's quite possible that introduced microbes could thrive there. (although the ethics of such an act are questionable).

  • Life exists on Jupiter's moons because we sent it there. "Clean rooms" do not keep _all_ microorganisms off of our space probes. Of course they could survive the journey there and maybe even start to reproduce.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    NASA studies Mars because they think that life had once existed there. Not only could we learn a lot about the evolution of life sustaining planets themselves, but there is also some potential of making it habitable. It is also much cheaper and easier to send probes to Mars, because not much goes on there. To send probes to Jupiter or one of its moons, which are plagued by tremendous storms and volcanos, would require a LOT more money and technology.
  • Well, lets look at it that way. If life indeed somewhere else, which, it could accorind to theory, we could be reached very soon. Conditions for life to exist have been spotted throughout the evidence recently. Since the time it takes for life to develop is relatively small, in proportion to time the universe has existed and time it takes from the begining of a civilization to the time the civilization is able to reach other planets is relatively small too. Then, if all goes to theory we would be contacted by `aliens` and since no evidence exists that we have been, I think its not all this simple. Here's my $0.02

    P.S. - this is borrowed from an intersting article I have found in a Russian scientific journal some time ago. Excuse spelling marks. Oh ya, this is one of the first posts too!

  • I'm not saying we'll find intelligent life in our own solar system, but it would be nice to try and find some life on a planet or moon that might be more capable of sustaining life than Mars?

    So in other words, we haven't found intelligent life on earth either.
  • Yes... but...

    Jupiter is one hell of a long way away compared to Mars. More cost, bigger less frequent probes. I think we should start small (!) and land men on Mars:

    The sooner we have a launch facilty on a low gravity planet the better. I'm sure most of the cost of sending probes/men/monkeys into space is in getting them out of the earths gravity well.

    Would it not be more prudent (and cost effective) to explore our nearest neighbours first?
  • Ah yes, the fine line between "unravelling the mysteries of the cosmos, affording Man a greater understanding of the origins of life... itself!" and "incompetent bastards who repeatedly slam your tax dollars into distant planets"...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Europa has always been a possibility as Jupiters 2 outer moon. Europa is a world of ice basically. Its outer shell is that of ice clear of impact craters due to resolidifying ice after heated impact and it's inner is that of a vast ocean with a inner rocky ice core. Because of the water and a good bit of warmth caused by tidal forces for jupiter, Io, and Ganamede, it has good potential of sparking simple life such as single cell bacteria or algae. I think this will be most intersting in the years to come. From what I understand, there is a mission to land on Europa sometime soon. Anyway, we'll find out soon
  • by Money__ ( 87045 ) on Saturday December 11, 1999 @11:33AM (#1468850)
    That CNN story is a little out dated!

    January 17, 1997
    Web posted at: 11:00 p.m.EST

    This link (jpg 44K) [] shows a closer view of the moon Europa orbiting Jupiter.

  • I'm not impressed. Every spot on this globe has been through dramatic climactic changes over geological time. At more than one point, Lake Vostok was swamplike, teeming with life.

    But life surviving inhospitable environments is very different from life evolving in such places. Has anyone a theory that Europa was once warmer, with sufficient sunlight? Or maybe ejecta from Earth impactors has transported life elsewhere?

    -- Robert
  • I sometimes have the feeling that we're all part of an alien sitcom, and this is just another twist of faith.

    Hmmm, the season finale should be coming up soon, the last one took place 2000 years ago in the Jerusalem area.

    If life goes there, the ratings are going to soar!

  • although the ethics of such an act are questionable
    THis sounds reasonable until you think about it. What ethical considerations are there for introducing life to a dead planet? To introduce water-breathing rabbits to the Europan system if life is extant would be a disastrous thing but, if you're sure the planet is devoid of life, I say go for it.

    Of course, how do you know the planet is truly empty? I suspect that this would be a non-trivial task, but a daunting one.
  • Why would you want to go to titan, when europa is so much better?

    It has all the water you could possible want! Ever! And its closer, and thus not as cold.

    The way I see it, having a base on Europa would be quite similar to having a base on antarctica (I just *know* I spelled that wrong :o) , except its a lot harder to get to. And you need to bring your atmosphere with you. And there isn't as much gravity. And, um... Jupiters gravity could screw you over a little bit (Don't even get me *started* on Io...) And... actually it isn't all that much like having a base on antarctica at all.

    But my point remains valid, as soon as I actually remember what it was...

  • Yes, but IIRC (and it has been a while), he also ignited Jupiter, to warm Europa up. I don't recall whether this was before or after there was life there, though.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    well, mars has more potential for colonization. Where Europa has more potential for life. Io is actually the most active body in our solar system besides the sun. Io is full of active sulfur volcanoes. There's a chance of life on IO too. Then again, triton, is 90% nitrogen atmosphere so that looks like a good place for a probe too.
  • Of course, how do you know the planet is truly empty? I suspect that this would be a non-trivial task, but a daunting one.

    That's the issue Kim Stanley Robinson talks about it Red Mars (thought it was boring and didn't read the others :) It was interesting, though). The bioligists are mad that people want to introduce microbiotic life becuase it might either
    a) crowd out existing life that they haven't found
    b) mutate sufficiently and look like native life and trick them
  • Fair, but Mars has an historical mysticism to it that appeals to people. And heck the mars landers only cost the equivalent of 2 days of spying in the US...

    Jupiter and its moons are a great target for exploration, but don't have hundreds of years of people pondering life on them. Its only been less then half a millenium that we've actually known jupiter even -has- moons.
  • nothing can live in the vacume of space...
  • I sometimes have the feeling that we're all part of an alien sitcom, and this is just another twist of faith.

    You're probably aware of this, but Robert Rankin's excellent and hilarious Armageddon trilogy covers that very point.
    Not read 'em? They're called Armageddon: The Musical, Armageddon II: They Came and Ate Us, and Armageddon III: The Suburban Book of the Dead
  • Do we all not remember when we discovered micro organisms on Mars? I don't believe we cared. I wouldn't think we'd see anything special at this time, Earth is the only terraformed planet in this Galaxy, but if life exists elsewhere, it may be a clue that it will happen again, soon (being a few billion years). Until then, how about we try and get something far into another universe for research?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    After we (Usa) invades Canada, all of Europe will probably be next... Who wants Mexico anyways :p
  • life isn't a miracle, its inevitable...

    Which I beleive to be true. Are there micro-organisms in Europa's oceans? probably... Does it really matter?... I don't think so.

    It is clear to me that there are no planets in our solar system capable of supporting macro-cellular life...

    Having said this, it *will* be interesting to see how life formed on other planets.

    It is also useful from a historic point of view: very little is known about the Earth's early history. Europa's planetary conditions may mimic conditions on Earth 4bn years ago, in which case this could teach us about life on Earth.
  • Across the Universe

    Words are flying out like endless rain into a paper cup,
    They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe.
    Pools of sorrow waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
    Possessing and caressing me.
    Jai Guru De Va Om
    Nothing's gonna change my world
    Nothing's gonna change my world.
    Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
    That call me on and on across the universe,
    Thoughts meander like a restless wind
    Inside a letter box they
    Tumble blindly as they make their way
    Across the universe
    Jai Guru De Va Om
    Nothing's gonna change my world
    Nothing's gonna change my world.
    Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
    Through my open views inciting and inviting me.
    Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns,
    It calls me on and on across the universe
    Jai Guru De Va Om
    Nothing's gonna change my world
    Nothing's gonna change my world.
  • why are the ethics questionable?
  • That's so funny... That quote was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw this article. I almost posted it without looking at the messages, but thought I better check in case thought the exact same ting and they did. Great minds do think alike I guess!
  • all i can say is LOL.
  • Okay, people, this is pretty cool. These microbes can survive at conditions similar to those we expect on Europa, assuming the presence of water, which seems extremely likely now. But what difference does it make if we humans never manage to get further than the moon? This is just another reason we should get off our butts and start taking space travel seriously. The study of life from another planet would be so valuable to mankind that no expense would be unwarranted -- imagine the advances we could make in understanding our own life forms, if Europan life had significally different genes or followed a different genetic code, with the unique ribosomes required for it's reproduction, we may be able to understand life on a completely different level.

    "Why, oh why didn't I take the blue pill?"
  • I don't know... I rather enjoy watching my tax dollars get slamed into a distant planet. Actually, its even better - my country doesn't have a space program, so I'm watching some bastards slam *your* tax dollars into a distant planet.

    When you think about it though, it could be a good way for NASA[*] to raise funds, by using this as a spectator sport: They build the biggest, most explosive space probe they can, and the slam it into some un-important moon (I'm thinking maybe charon?) on pay TV. They'd make *billions*. I sure know I'd pay :o)

    [*] Now, preferably it would actually be IASA, a yet to be set up division of the UN or something, that we should all pester someone else to get around to doing. You'd basicly only need to front the cost of the first explosive probe, and then it would be self-funding :o)

  • Sunlight is not a requirement for life, the rich life surrounding underwater volcanoes proves that.
    If Europa has seas (of liquid water) and volcanic activity, I would bet my money that it has at least bacteria. But is it warm enough?

    "Scientists say Europa's surface may be as warm as 0 degrees F.,"

    "Located 5 times farther from the Sun than Earth, Europa is too cold, measured at -230 degrees Fahrenheit (-145 degrees Celsius), to support life as we know it."

    So, in short, we don't have a clue. :)
  • Well, firstly we can't be certain there is no life there. We can spend decades looking and finding nothing, but still not be certain. For example, life might just have started.

    Secondly, life might be possible on Europa, but might not have started yet. Introducing Earth-style life would probably stop native life-forms developing, and hence prevent the existence of native intelligent life on what is, for all we know, the only other habitable planet in the Universe.

    I'm not too convinced by those arguments myself, but I'm not willing to discount them without further consideration : it is a more weighty matter than perhaps any other moral dilemma.

  • Current theories hold that Lake Vostok remain liquid due to the intense pressure and possible geothermal activity.

    I think it would be incredibly cool to discover geothermal vents at the bottom of the lake. Similar vents (black smokers) exist in the open ocean and support entire ecosystems that live independant of the sun's energy.

    I'm not sure how much energy a typical black smoker puts out. It might be too much to account for all of the ice surrounding Lake Vostok. Anyhow, I think it would be incredibly cool to find any kind of life down there. How about sending down an ROV with cameras? Photographs from the bottom of Lake Vostok, wooh!

  • However, look at the whole budget. YES, they are slamming down tax dollars at a furious rate. But, most don't hit Mars or even leave our own gravity well. Most of our tax dollars being expended by NASA are being slammed right into LockhMart and McBoeingDouglas and Rockwell, not to mention the Kremlin (I'm assuming Energiya, who need the money, aren't getting much of what we give them). The media keep repeating the cost of the lost probes, and I keep thinking, "damn those are real cheap." And don't get me started on the ratio of the earth science budget to the manned spaceflight program...

    This is exactly why "faster, cheaper, better" is a good idea. The failure rate does not change, and they lose less each failure. But of course "faster cheaper better" does not apply to manned spaceflight. (n.b. I'm not flaming you, you probably agree, but I want this message to go out...) cheers...

  • We've known for decades that life can develop in some of the most hostile environments known to man. From the hottest, driest desert, to the deepest depths of the ocean, and even in sulfur-laden and extremely "toxic" areas by undersea lava vents, there is life. And not just the odd creature or two. Every environment on earth (with perhaps the exception of the interior of active volcanos) is TEAMING with life. Fifty years ago, suggesting life existed in some of these places made you a crackpot. Now that we've found life in almost every imaginable environement on earth, why does thinking that equally complex and sophisticated ecosystems have developed in not just a few places in the Universe besides Earth still make you an extremist? I think it's time for the establishment to encourage a little more free-thinking among the scientific research community. There is NO environment on Earth that is truly lifeless. Why would any other planet be much different?
  • by jfunk ( 33224 ) <> on Saturday December 11, 1999 @11:51AM (#1468879) Homepage
    Read 2010: Odyssey Two, Chapter 11: Ice and Vacuum.

    He describes a very interesting creature uniquely adapted to the harsh cold and explains how it could have evolved there.

    Yes, it *is* science fiction, but remember that this is Clarke, who loves throwing facts and theories into the writing. It does make it that much more interesting. Try reading "Ghost off the Grand Banks", where he describes a lot about offshore oil drilling and the Hibernia rig only recently completed near here, the Mandelbrot set including the history of it with some very good explanations, plus a lot of discussion on ways to possibly raise the Titanic.

    Asimov is good like that as well. I remember reading his retelling of "The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs" from a chemist's point of view. That one fictional short story made chemistry make so much sense that I really started getting interested in it. Now I have a bit of a chemistry lab here sharing space with electronics and computer equipment.

    Oh yeah, highly recommended Asimov non-fiction: "The Relativity of Wrong." It's a collection of essays on a myriad of topics. They're quite witty, too. He exhibits a bit of a Dave Barry-ish style in a couple of places. I learned a lot from that book, and the title essay, "The Relativity of Wrong," is very cool.

    Ok, got a little off-topic there, but these books were, I think, some of the most important I have ever read.
  • There is some damn good reasons to investigate Mars.

    1) It's closer, so it's cheaper to send probes to and the public will see results faster.

    2) I believe it's possible that Mars was once much like Earth is now. It might someday become the most famous archeology site in the solar system! What if sentient beings created cities and such on Mars and these remnants are just waiting for us to discover and explore? We just don't know what might have been before Mars "died", and who knows what's under a 1000 feet of Martian dust for us to discover!
  • Nature has a way of surprising us - after all, who thought that we'd find life forms which could survive in nuclear waste, extremely toxic chemical environments or extremely high temperature environments? It's not much of a stretch to imagine something like existing anaerobic bacteria with greater radiation tolerance...
  • offtopic? well, at least you got post #42 :)
  • -assuming the presence of water, which seems extremely likely now.-

    You're kidding, right?! Europa is basicly a big ol' ball of water, with a crust of ice over the top!

    And who says that ET life has to use a system at all like the self replicating double helix we all know and love? Well admitedly the self replicating bit is kinda needed, who know what sort of structures would allow this?

  • At least that's what the Dutch people call this continent.
  • Not entirely true.

    When one of the Apollo missions landed near an old Surveyor landing site, they found bacteria happily surviving dormant on the Surveyor. It had been on the moon for several years at that point. They returned the bacteria to earth, put it in a culture and it sprang back to life!

  • Europa may be cold on the surface but it
    is possible that in the core it's much hotter due
    to the gravity of Jupiter "kneeding" the water and
    heating it up. On earth we have tides from the
    moon's gravity. On Europa the tides could be
    strong enough to actually heat up it's core by
    friction. The heat caused by that might be enough
    to allow life, however primitive, to survive.

  • does anyone seem concerned about the financial prospects for a mission, given nasa's recent success rate? or would this be the time for a private company to stand up to the task? maybe someone could tell bill gates that europa doesn't have windows yet.
  • It would have to be one hell of an impact to eject life-bearing chunks from earth to another planet... The delta-V would be enormous, and the heat released (imagine just the propellent required to get from the earth to the moon released in a split-second impact...) seems enough to kill anything living that happens to be riding along on.

    I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but the mechanics involved don't point towards a friendly ride for even bacteria that could theoretically survive intense heat/pressure plus the cold vacuum of space.
  • You may have heard of SETI? Well, there's another project rather similar to that, except they are trying to find intelligent life on Earth. Check out their website [].
  • And let's say life does exist there--I think it's safe to assume that such life does not have a "highly technical" society (at least, not as we define it), or we would have seen some evidence of it by now... So the question becomes, if life does exist there, how on earth (literally) are we going to find out about it?

    I mean, this could well require actually landing something on Europa, and that has got to be phenomenally more expensive than a satellite pass...maybe even more expensive than a manned Mars mission (tho I'm just making that up...I have no justification for that). Still and all, it certainly does excite the imagination, doesn't it?

  • It might not die. Read the post the other guy wrote about bacteria surviving on one of our probes and then being brought back to Earth and revived. Life can be very robust.

    Windows NT has crashed,
    I am the Blue Screen of Death,
  • There are a couple of theories that suggest life may have got started in conditions similar to the volcanic vents at the bottom of our oceans and not the 'still, warm pond' than Darwin suggested and that the early Earth was pretty nasty and harsh when life got started.

    As long as chemical reactions can take place, there is probably a chance for *some* sort of life (says the non-biologist who has merely read a book or two :) ).

  • by / ( 33804 ) on Saturday December 11, 1999 @12:17PM (#1468901)
    If microbes were found on Mars, they could have originated on Earth and moved to Mars (or vice versa), but the chances are low indeed (although admittedly not zero) of Earth and Europan life having a common origin.

    I couldn't help but read that last sentance as "[T]he chances are low indeed of Earth and European life having a common origin."
  • Er...I'm no ethical expert, but what moral conundrum arises due to introducing microscopic life onto a lifeless moon? Granted, I've got nothing against animal testing (within reason), and I suppose there might be some issue there, but we're talking about microbes here...I don't know anyone who's pro-animal enough to not swat mosquitoes, and I would think that microbes are worth even less worry...

    Or am I missing some fundamental ethical isssue?

  • Some people here seem to think that we should explore Jupiter's Moons rather than Mars. I agree that the prospects of finding something interesting (life ?) on the moons seem to be, right now, much higher. But keep in mind that this is only a single discovery, which highlights the possibility of life in strange environements which Europa might or might not have.

    However, I believe that there are several advantages to the exploration of Mars first. Remember that Europa is 100 times smaller than the Earth. Europa could not possibly support human life. Mars could. Therefore, it would be much more interesting to have a base on Mars than to have a base on Europa.

    Mars is also much nearer to us - it takes what, 3 or 4 years at full speed to get to Jupiter. Our technology is much closer to allowing us to do productive exploration of Mars. I'm not against exploring Europa and the other moons of Jupiter in the future, but right now we should focus on what we already begun: the Exploration of Mars.

    What do you think ? Or should we just scrap the Mars project and go to Jupiter right away :) I don't think that the budget of NASA can sustain focused exploration of both planets..
  • how would it get there? I doubt Earth life could have come from rocks, or from an extremely cold lake. It had to arise somewhere where there was lots of water, energy, and nutrients. It is possible that life could have arrived there by meteor [], though. (In fact, some argue [] that life on Earth probably comes from space because it is so difficult for a planet to create life on its own)
  • i actually did a project on testing for life on europa during highschool. during the final semester, groups devised ways of testing for life on other planets (integrating our knowledge of physics, chemistry, and biology). Most of the other groups centered on definitions of life directly derived from our own existance.

    we, on the other hand, decided to change the definition because basing all "life" in the universe on our planet would be self centered. ;-)

    we decided to use the idea of entropy. as entropy increases (disorder), heat is given off (general thermodynamics). if one could measure heat changes in a sample of space material from the planet in question and somehow filter out heat given off by exothermic chemical reactions, one could establish a criteria for finding life on other planets that doesn't have to follow the "cell as the basis of life" theory. of course, this was a trivial highschool idea, but it seems to make perfect sense. living things have to utilize environmental energy to survive, and one of the by products of that usage should be heat (or a positive entropy). why couldn't this work? and its less limited than saying all life has to have cells, uses water, and is made of some formation of carbon .... comments?

    saugar maripuri

  • Asimov is good like that as well. I remember reading his retelling of "The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs" from a chemist's point of view.

    LOL. That was a great story. I remember reading it a long time ago and loving it, but I had forgetten who had written it.
  • Well we have all heard about sea creatures living in sub-zero ocean enviorments. Although if the entire ocean is surrounded by ice I'm not seeing where organisms would get the nutrients to live.

    Its all up the in air.

  • I said this in a previous post, but I think its worth saying again. NASA could easily become self funded by staging huge, spectatcular explosive dismemberment-in-space on pay TV.

    I sure know *I'd* pay up to 20 dollars to see Charon blowen to bits by a NASA probe :o)

    Hell. If you didn't want to actually blow bits of the sloar sytem up, you could just crash some probes into each other. Or dive something into Sol :o)

    Which reminds me of Douglas Adams and Kakrafroon.

  • Nasty and harsh and bizzare.
    I was reading on some Astronomy pages how the moon is picking up rotational energy from the earth. Slowing down the rotation of the earth 1.5ms per century and pushing away the moon 3.8 cm per year.

    So, assuming these changes are constant, an earth day 3.6 billion years ago was 8.1 hours and the moon was 1/3 closer to the earth as it is now.

    No wonder cave men were brutish and stupid, imagine only sleeping 4 hours a night! :-)

    Erik Z
  • That's one of the reasons for an international space station -- so we have a launch point without all the overhead of booster rockets. Also, we can use it to assemble larger spacecraft from components that are shot up using smaller, cheaper boosters.

    Mars would potentially be better, if it has enough raw materials to build spacecraft there, "from scratch". (IIRC, the plan for a manned mission involves sending an advance probe to synthesize fuel from the enviroment, so when we get there we can just fill'er up and head home.) Otherwise, there's not much point building a spacecraft here, then sending it to Mars, just so we can launch it again from there.
  • "In the space of one hundred and seventy six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-pole. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo [Illinois] and New Orleans will have joined their streets together and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact. "
    -- Mark Twain
  • Ever since the common 'holy' spirit has begun to fade, people forgot the whole universe is life in itself.
    Earth is alive. Sun is life. Moon too. Different tho.

    Ever tried to send a spaceship to mars to check out the hood?
    Every ancient Roman could have told you it is the planet
    of war and death, which is part of life as well.

    It's all life. Isn't it nice ;-)
    So, let's cut these stupid programs which bring forth nothing but wasted breath.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday December 11, 1999 @12:58PM (#1468918) Homepage Journal
    ENN (Europa News Network) Studios:

    "Scientists at the Oversea Laboratory, in Glurgleplic's Crater, have long been researching the question of whether there is life on the third planet from the Sun, Arret. Now, their latest findings suggest that there may indeed be life, but that it's probably very simple. Studies by the group have found that bipedal life can survive such harsh conditions. Radio astronomers have detected modulated radiation from the planet, but discount it's significance. 'There is no intelligent content in any of the radio emissions', one of the scientists said."

    "Not all scientists agree, though. 'A very highly amplified EMR scan shows the occasional image of a clearly aquatic life-form, with a white belly, yellow feet and a yellow mouth. This image is usually near the symbols TUX. That some life there is clearly capable of seeing the majesty and excellence of aquatic life of this form is a clear sign of some measure of intelligence."

  • Thank you for brightening up my day! That was a song I loved when I was a child, but I completely forgot about it...
  • Okay. Just... ummm... don't land there. Last thing we need is another disease. :\
  • I too [] can write an article [] that has so many obfuscated links [] that you are almost guaranteed [] to be confused []. And make sure you follow [] all the links, otherwise you are sure [] to be lost at sea [].
  • Human kind has never put anything on the surface of Europa. We have only flown by and taken pictures. It would be a very dirty craft that could seed life from many miles above the surface.

    So whose clean room is clean enough for you?
  • Great minds do think alike I guess!
    Fools seldom differ ... ;)
  • On the next fantastic episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, "Life on the Moons of Jupiter?" or "How to distract the media from your failures - A NASA publication"..
  • If you are willing to accept the possibility of earth and mars haveing a common life origin, presumably via impact crater ejecta, then you believe that life could survive the freezing vacuum of space and the ionizing radiation from the sun.

    It then follows that life-containing material ejected from earth could have landed on europa.

    If you accept this line of thinking then it is likely that all life in the solar system could have a common origin in being derived from ejecta from planets in distant solar systems and thus may not have arisin on earth in the first place.

    We are aliens!
  • It would cost considerably less than a manned mars mission, but obviously more than an unmanned mars mission.

    But its not as much more expensive as you might imagine -- once you've got it *launched*, the issues are pretty much the same no matter where its going (so long as you're willing to accept that it will take longer to get there, and communications will be slower). Surviving the entry and landing on europa wouln't be much worse than mars (although obviously we're having some difficulty there).

    Sending a probe to Jupiter itself would be tough, with the gravitational issues and the lack of any solid ground for it to sit on. Likewise, landing on somewhere like pluto would be an issue because then you're talking about serious communications problems. But mars vs europa is mostly an issue of distance and time more than anything technically challenging...
  • -What, you didn't bring your space suit with you?
    -No, I thought I was going to France...
    -Oh well, hold your breath then.
    (sound of airlock opening, a distant "pop" and many tiny red globules floating around)
  • If microbes were found on Mars, they could have originated on Earth and moved to Mars (or vice versa), but the chances are low indeed (although admittedly not zero) of Earth and Europan life having a common origin.

    The finding of life evolving independently in Europe would be news indeed.

  • Talking about jupiter...
    Does anyone know if it is feasible to land on the surface of Jupiter _itself_?
    I think we still have no pictures of the surface of any of those giant planets in our system. I know this is a bit off-topic but I'm quite curious what we might find there...
  • So why go to Mars then. Set up a base on the moon, get some then jump to the asteroid belt. I seem to recall that Mars was rather poor in the minerals.
  • There was life on europa in 2010 but the main part of it happend in 2061. That is where the monolith reapeard on europa and helped the life out, like it did on earth before in 2001
  • NASA has an article [] about the bacteria they found on the Surveyor 3 camera brought back by the Apollo 12 astronauts.
  • I'm not impressed. Every spot on this globe has been through dramatic climactic changes over geological time. At more than one
    point, Lake Vostok was swamplike, teeming with life.

    But life surviving inhospitable environments is very different from life evolving in such places. Has anyone a theory that Europa
    was once warmer, with sufficient sunlight? Or maybe ejecta from Earth impactors has transported life elsewhere?

    Who said life needed sunlight to evolve? The latest theories suggest that Terrestrial life evolved either at the ocean bottom, or beneath it. Check out the literature on subsea vents, and particularly the clumps of bacteria that get blown up out of them --- these originate from some unknown location beneath the surface, in temperatures in excess of 200 C.

    And, interestingly, these conditions are pretty much the same as that at the bottom of Europa.

    Actually, it's Titan, orbiting Saturn (unless I've got it confused with Triton) that's potentially the most interesting. It's atmosphere isn't in chemical equilibrium, and there's only one other planet with that property: Earth.

  • We already have received Meterites that are believed to be from Mars, so it is possible. But you are right, that is an incredible amount of force.
  • I think you're wrong. You're saying not even one-celled basic animals are living on another planet? Wrong. I can definetly say that with confidence. Look at the size of the universe, and what we already know! We have already found about 3 or 4 planets that can inhabit life. An example is mars. They found fossilized bacteria there (Bacteria counts as life), there are ice caps (meaning water), and it's atmosphere is made of mainly carbon dioxide! Think before you post these things. Oh yeah, and we'll last more than a few decades. I actually give us a few centuries, if not more. We are a very adaptable species. What about yours?
  • Um, no, they didn't find bacteria on Mars. They found a metorite of Martian origion that contained things that some people thought looked life bacteria. IIRC, the debate over whether it was life or not went on for a while and then people pretty much forgot about it. I don't think the general consensus was that it was life. At best, it is still up in the air.
  • I'm well aware of the geothermal vents, and the odd life forms there. But I haven't seen any DNA or other chemical analyses that says these are of independant origin from the rest of terrestrial life.

    If so, then that's very interesting. If not [probable], it merely states that life can evolve to meet changing environments. 200'C sounds severe, but so long as it isn't boiling (cell walls stay intact) and the proteins don't get denatured, life goes on.

    -- Robert
  • Sounds like college to me...

  • Actually, the data I have says Europa is tidally locked to Jupiter. Much like our own moon is to us. So there is no longer any tidal "kneeding" to provide heat on Europa. Of course, there still could be radioactive decay.

    -- Robert
  • That picture encouraged me to find more, NASA has a huge number of shots posted from the Galileo flyby of Europa:

    http://www-pdsimage.jpl.nasa. gov/cgi-bin/Nav/ []

    You can search by target (Europa) and also by orbit, there's a page that describes the different orbits and how far away from Europa they were.

    Also, I found a page that has a clickable map of Europa where you can zoom in on certain areas they took photographs of (at low, medium, and high resolution) and see data about the region and captions about the image. It's absolutely fascinating... /galileo/europa/clickmap/europa.html []

    Also, this last link might be a tad off-topic, but it's NASA's Planetary Photojournal, they have images from all the planets, and you can search by target and mission to get specifc images or look at all the images for a specific target. It found 100 photos of Europa when I searched... []

    One last link, then I'll shut up... This one is the Planetary Image Archive, it lists different missions (Galileo, Viking, Pathfinder) and gives links to pictures or search engines for those missions. It's not as friendly as the photojournal above, but it seems to have more data: []

  • Damn.

    Thats one hardy little critter. They better keep that bugger in the lab. It could be the bug that took us all out.
  • I'm waiting for the conclusion to this argument, which presumably goes "but since we are here in abundance there must have been divine intervention. And therefore my particular flavor of restrictive dogma must be true and you will go to hell."

  • I remember 2 years ago when this story first started heating up (probably on or about the date of the CNN link) and I was driving home from work on my way to the pasta shop to pick up some fresh cheese ravioli, I was listening to NPR and they were discussing this very topic. They were playing segments from a news conference from JPL where one of the JPL people spoke excitedly about his BELIEF that life exists in the water oceans beneath the ice, and if you weren't paying close attention it sounded as if he was actually ANNOUNCING a discovery of life.

    Well as you can imagine, many news sources the next day reported about the newly discovered life on Europa, and the JPL people had to do another quick press conference straightening things out.

    Even though it wasn't JPL's fault, scientists do need to be careful with what they say and how they say it. While is was clear to me then that he was only talking about his personal belief, he should have realized that some reporter only 1/2 listening was bound to get it wrong, as so many (practically ALL) reporters do when reporting on matters of science and technology.

    And much like that scientist from JPL, I have a suspicion that life exists beneath the ice.

  • Jupiter and its moons are always a fun telescope target. Tonight we had unusually clear and steady skies, which make it easier to clearly see surface details such as the latitudinal cloud bands, the Great Red Spot (or more appropriately for the amateur observer, the Great Pale Spot), and cloud festoons in the temperate belts. Saturn was also magnificent as well, with its moons Titan, Rhea, Tethys, Dione, and Iapetus clearly visible. Mimas and Enceladus were near the visual observation limit, though I managed to briefly glimpse them using averted vision. Uranus and Neptune, both currently in Capricorn, now set too early to allow serious telescopic observation, but when they're available, they're fun to look at too. On good nights, their largest moons (Titania and Triton) are resolvable from my backyard.

    I know I'm not the only amateur astronomer that has a planet fetish. I spend about as much time looking at the planets in the solar system as I do looking at everything else combined(galaxies, open/globular clusters, nebulae, supernova remnants, etc.) While looking at Jupiter, Europa, Io, Callisto, and Ganymede tonight, I was reminded of the things that Arthur C. Clarke postulated in 2010: Odyssey Two, and lo and behold, when I check Slashdot, there's an article about possible life on Europa along with comments that reference Clarke's work.

    Anyway, to get this more on-topic, I've always wondered what sort of experiments could be performed to test for life on Europa. The type of life that is postulated by current theories would reside far below the icy surface of the moon, near the theoretical surface vents fueled by the tidal kneading of Europa's parent and neighbors. I haven't read up a whole lot on the details of the future Europa missions, but it would be interesting to find out exactly what sort of scientific experiments are being planned.
  • This is an interesting idea, but it has a few flaws that need to be worked out.

    Just to clarify that I understand what you're saying: you state (correctly) that life increases the entropy (orderliness) of an open system, and heat can measure this increase in entropy.

    First problem: you can't use heat to measure entropy in the way that you say.

    What actually happens is that a life-bearing planet will give off *less* heat than a similar planet without life.

    When plants capture the sun's rays and use that energy to photosynthesize, they are not *not* bouncing that energy back into space. Eventually, a chunk of that energy is radiated back out (body heat :), but a lot of the captured solar radiation is used to do things like grow the roots, branches, leaves, and seeds. Doing these things are all increases in local entropy. This is energy which will never make it back into the universe.

    Give it to highschool teachers not to pick this up :) (It's not in their textbooks :)... you needed Steve Wozniak as a teacher :)

    HOWEVER, this does lead to an alternate testing method: what if the planet is radiating *less* energy than expected? We could conclude then, that the rest of the energy is being trapped by life-as-we-know-it, or something other process which uses solar energy to increase entropy (because, what else are you going to do with energy? :)

    This might work (pardon me if this is what you were suggesting), but it won't work for Europa. Why? Two reasons:

    First, we already know life is *not* widespread on Europa (more on this below). This means that Europan (heh) life doesn't use very much energy - maybe small enough not to be detected using current technology.

    Second, the kind of enery Europan life is beleived to use is volcano (internal) energy rather than solar energy.

    We have to look for other methods. One method for checking entropy is rather easier than looking at the amount of heat radiated. It's the method that also tells us that life is not widespread in Europa.

    This method is looking at the atmosphere. Most planets have a "chemically balanced" low-entropy atmosphere. Earth does not. Our atmosphere is >20% oxygen - a highly reactive gas. Were it not for trees replenishing the O2 in the atmosphere, the amount of O2 would decline rapidly.

    This is not to say that we must look for O2 atmospheres for life as we know it, but rather, just look for any high-entropy chemically unstable atmoshere... this might be easier to detect than looking for heat radiated.

    But this can only show us planets that are *teeming* with life. To find a few specks of life on Europa, we'd probably have to wait until we visit it....

  • Last probe to Mars:
    - failure (never sent back results)
    - benifit to science (we learned what not to do)
    - cost $165 million

    Titanic movie:
    - success (made Leo and Cameron rich)
    - benifit to teenage girls, only
    - cost $200 million

    And you say we spend too much on space programs?
  • Have you seen Starship Troopers?

    The humans were so sure of what they were doing that questions such as that never came into their minds.

    We need a society more like that. Even if we are destroying someone's society, we should be filled with the belief that humans are better to the point where we dont care.

    Anyways, how do you even define a lifeform? News websites say they require water, but that lacks imagination and strikes me as a statement to please masses.

    The idea is to be open to scientific ideas but have no question in your mind that we are a better species. I mean, we are, aren't we?
  • I am thinking three things after reading your comment.

    1. Who cares? It does not strike me as a big loss if we obliterate some lifeform that does not yet or has just started to exist. Ethics aren't a question here, I just wouldn't care any more than if brushed off a few bacteria from my arm, casting them into the open air to die or whatever.

    3. How do we know that what we do will be harmful? Sure, the chances are greater, but that is assuming that the life is life like we are used to. What if we go over there and there are big viruses walking around? A rabbit aint gonna hurt anything. What if we go there, and their are being made of oxygen, and just by breathing we genocide there ass? What if we go there and actually help whatever it is develop? Please do not be so closed minded.

    3. On a bigger scale, the whole problem with life not of this planet is that we have NO idea what to expect. We cannot even get life strait on Earth. Im no biologist but that does not prevent me from hypothesising that some sort of completely unimaginable life form exists.

    It all boils down to that we only know what we can comprehend. If we don't understand something, we have historically passed it off as something that it isn't, until a later time when we can understand it.
  • There are a couple of theories that suggest life may have got started in conditions
    similar to the volcanic vents at the bottom of our oceans and not the 'still, warm pond'
    than Darwin suggested and that the early Earth was pretty nasty and harsh when life
    got started.

    As long as chemical reactions can take place, there is probably a chance for *some*
    sort of life

    The key requirement is that there must be some means of concentrating the reagents to enable chemical reaction to proceed at a significant rate, and to trap the products of these reactions so they are available for further reactions in a loosely anabolic sequence.

    The absence of this requirement in early theories of chemical biogenesis led to the charge that not nearly enough time had elapsed for life to have evolved from the simple compounds available in the primordial atmosphere.

    Fumaroles on the sea bed not only provide a steady stream of heat and activated molecules, they also supply a rich soup of silicates, and other minerals. I don't know much about the chemistry of these smoker chimneys but I'll bet that the materials deposited around the vent include decent surface catalysts like clays for example. Prior to discovery of the smokers, there were theories that life might have evolved in shallow tidal pools scooped out of clay at the ocean's edge. But it can be no coincidence that the oldest life forms on the planet (the archaeobacteria) are found in and around these fumaroles both below and above ground.

    As a side note, most theories still assume that the raw material for organic chemistry came out of the atmosphere. But one scientist I read about recently thinks there is evidence that there are massive quantities of hydrocarbons migrating slowly out from the core of the planet (this is where he thinks our oil and natural gas really comes from), and thus the fumaroles would have their own concentrated supply of reactants. I'm still betting on atmospheric carbon for now though.

    (says the non-biologist who has merely read a book or two :) ).

    I'm an armchair theorist too. What's wrong with that?

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • If you want to know about the issues involved in such a journey you ought to read Stephen Baxter's novel "Titan". Damn good story, and the science and technology content is all meticulously researched. The spacecraft used is basically leftover space shuttles from a dying space program, with a few basic modifications.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers