Nov 2011

Near-Surface Water on Europa


More to follow, but I wanted to post quickly (VERY quickly as my keyboard is racing my battery) about the Science Update on Europa. The basic gist is this:

  • Earth scientists had a well-validated model for how certain terrains form on Earth
  • They applied this model to the chaos terrains on Europa
  • They were able to explain these features quite well, arguably much better than previous efforts

If the work holds up (remember, this is a a hypothesis to be tested), here’s what it implies:

  1. Europa probably does have a thick shell, despite the presence of chaos terrain, HOWEVER…
  2. Within that thick shell there may be near-surface water in the form of what are essentially sub-glacial lakes
  3. The water in these lakes could very well be in communication with the surface, which means…
  4. There could be downward cycling of oxidants produced at the surface (good for energy), and…
  5. There could be upward cycling of the remnants of any life that might exist in the lakes.

Very cool stuff, indeed. There are lots of ways to test this in the future, from flybys to orbiters to landers. (And potentially other archived image analysis?)


More later….

S. Domagal-Goldman Posted by
S. Domagal-Goldman
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