NASA scientists believe that the inland ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa could support life. Their work is based on computer simulations of deposits below the surface of the ice cap in Europe, one of the largest moons in the solar system.
Calculations by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California indicate that this global ocean could have been formed by the decomposition of minerals that contain water. Their work, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, was presented at the Goldschmidt 2020 geochemistry virtual conference.
The researchers developed their model using data from NASA’s Galileo mission and the Hubble Space Telescope, which was built by NASA and the European Space Agency. In 2016, Hubble discovered tantalizing evidence of erupting columns of water vapor from Europe’s surface.
The findings suggest that ocean worlds like Europe may be formed by metamorphism, a change in the composition or structure of rocks by heat, pressure, or another natural phenomenon.
Scientists believe that warming and increased pressure, possibly caused by natural radioactive processes or the motion of the tides generated by Jupiter’s gravity, would cause decomposition of minerals that contain water to release trapped water.
They also discovered that this ocean “originally would have been slightly acidic, with high concentrations of carbon dioxide, calcium, and sulfate,” before becoming “chloride-rich.”
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