Life's building blocks on Europa?
Europa is the second moon out in the Jupiter system of moons, and one of the most fascinating worlds we've come across. Why? Its looks maybe?
|Above: Well wouldn't you be curious if you found a scratched pool ball thousands of miles across? Courtesy of NASA.|
Above: If you're unclear about what makes Europa soooo interesting this should clear that up for you.
|Above: Comets like 67-P here might be the source of life's building blocks - one of the goals of the Rosetta mission is to find that out - but what makes those blocks come together? Courtesy of ESA.|
Does all this actually add up to life?
We don't know, but we're going to find out a lot more about Jupiter and Europa in the next decade or two: The JUNO mission will arrive at Jupiter to study the giant planet itself in almost exactly a year, and NASA is launching a dedicated mission just to study Europa itself in the 2020's. Here's a (40 minute long or so) video on the decision and the mission, from NASA:
Above: NASA announce that it intends to send a probe to Europa. About time! Courtesy of NASA.
For now though, the Tokyo team will have to content themselves with lab experiments and simulations. But someday soon they'll get to find out, from Europa itself, how close to the mark their research is. Their paper is here.
Elsewhere in the Universe:
|Above: See how the two worlds swig around each other? That's becuse Charon is so big compared to Pluto that ts gravity forces Pluto to Orbit Charon a bit as well. Courtesy of Fred_76 on unmannedspaceflight.com|
* Technically this doesn't even make Europa a unique place, as many icy worlds are suspected to harbour hidden seas and oceans, including Europa's other neighbour Ganymede, Saturn's moon Enceleadus, Pluto's moon Charon and possibly even the dwarf planet Ceres
Elsewhere on the internet:
How the Martian atmosphere changed
Stability of exomoon atmospheres
Going into space to see Earth's core
Ultra dark galaxies
Rosetta mission extended