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Europa: Characteristics and Habitability Jeff Jablonski

Europa and Habitability : 

Europa and Habitability While earlier astrobiologists believed that Mars had the greatest potential for life other than Earth in our Solar System, it is now suggested that the most likely candidate is Europa, one of Jupiter's sixteen moons. Jovian Satellite: Discovered by Galileo Galilei 1610. Mean radius of 1569 kilometers (.25 Earths “oblong” orbit caused by gravitational forces of other satellites Io and Ganymede

Surface : 

Surface First noticeable feature of Europa is its intense, cracked surface and general lack of many craters. Surface of Europa is covered in ice. This has been determined due to the surface absorbing infrared light with wavelengths of 1.4 and 1.8 microns. This is a characteristic of ice. These streaks, are known as Lineae are formed by shifting ice over time. Also the result of possible underwater ice eruptions on fault lines.

Atmosphere : 

Atmosphere Europa has an atmosphere, although it is only composed of oxygen. O2 is formed through radiolysis: charged particles hitting Europa's surface, rather than being biologically produced. Atmospheric pressure is 10 x ^-12 the pressure of Earth's.

Subsurface Ocean : 

Subsurface Ocean Below the icy surface of Europa is a vast ocean. Ocean theory comes from observation of surface cracks. Lack of many impact craters on Europa's surface suggest relatively fast movement of surface, most likely from moving fluid underneath. Craters that are there have observable ice rings produced by water. Ocean is thought to be roughly 60 km deep. This means that its volume would be much larger than Earth's. Twice as much water than Earth More evidence for a current active subsurface ocean was discovered in 2000 when the Galileo spacecraft "The direction that a magnetic compass on Europa would point to flips around in a way that's best explained by the presence of a layer of electrically conducting liquid, such as saltwater, beneath the ice," - Dr. Margaret Kivelson, 2000

Implications for Existence of Life on Europa : 

Implications for Existence of Life on Europa Some conditions necessary for life: Heat, liquid water and organic material. Volcanic activity provides geothermal heat. Galileo also showed evidence of convection cells bringing up material from below the surface. Anaerobic microbial live that live around underwater hydrothermal vents are one example of organisms that are able to live under extreme conditions (without light). Liquid water, paired with oxygen in the atmosphere has the potential to produce not just microbial species, but more complex organisms.

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