According to scientists, there is even more evidence to support the theory that Europa, one of the 67 moons orbiting Jupiter could host Alien lifeforms deep within its icy oceans.
Jupiter’s little companion through space has long been considered as the most likely place to find Alien life in our solar system, due to its deep, salty oceans that scientists suspect are located beneath its frozen crust.
In order to be sure, another study has shown that the chemical balance of Europa’s oceans could, in fact, be eerily similar to the ones found on our planet, suggesting their hydrogen and oxygen contents are large enough for life to form, even without volcanic activity.
“We are studying an alien ocean using methods developed to understand the movement of energy and nutrients in Earth’s own systems,” said lead researcher Steve Vance, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “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 as it is on Earth.”
Scientists wanted to find out more and in order to see how this might work, they had to compare Europa’s potential for creating oxygen and hydrogen to that of our planet. In order to complete the study, the only observed processes that did not involve volcanism. According to researchers, volcanic activity is believed to have the potential of kickstarting the formation of life. However, researchers wanted to find out whether or not passive process on Europa could achieve the same thing.
Interestingly, according to their calculations, researchers found that passive process could kickstart the formation of life. Their researchers was published in Geophysical Research Letters and demonstrate that the amounts of both oxygen and hydrogen are comparable in scale, and on both Earth and Europa, oxygen production is up to 10 times greater than the production of hydrogen.
On our planet, our oceans produce hydrogen thanks to a process called serpentinization where salty water soaks into cracks in our planet’s crust, reacting with minerals to produce hydrogen and heat, which are two of the most essential ingredients for life.
While researching Jupiter’s moon, this is the first thing scientists focused on and based on how Europa has cooled since its formation; experts calculated that the moon might have fractures in its rocky interior as deep as 25 kilometers; which is around four to five times deeper than cracks in our planet’s crust. This means that there is more than enough room for hydrogen to form, as the ocean water invades those cracks.
However, hydrogen alone isn’t sufficient. Researchers next looked at the potential for oxygen production. According to researchers, oxygen can occur when invasive cosmic radiations split the frozen water molecules on the surface of the icy moon orbiting Jupiter. The team predicted that these elements could be cycled back into the depths of the ocean creating necessary conditions for life to form. However, Oxygen and Hydrogen are not the only elements needed for life to occur. Researchers will look for traces of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulphur on Europa as well.
So we’ve got the hydrogen, and we’ve got the oxygen – the missing link now is life. “Whether or not life and biological processes complete the circuit is part of what motivates our exploration of Europa,” said one of the researchers, Kevin Hand.
NASA has taken the hunt for alien lifeforms seriously, and that is why in 2020, they plan a flyby mission to Europa to understand the icy moon. Until we send a probe there to scan what’s happening under the thick layers of ice, we cannot say for sure whether or not Jupiter’s moon can host alien lifeforms.