Africa-Press – Liberia. One of more than 90 Jovian moons, Europa is considered to be one of the more promising celestial bodies that could host an environment suitable enough to support a form of life.
Scientists have detected the presence of carbon on Europa, one of Jupiter’s intriguing moons renowned for its icy surface concealing vast oceans of liquid saltwater below.
The discovery was made possible through the analysis of data collected by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.Previous observations had identified solid carbon dioxide on Europa’s surface, but uncertainty persisted about its origin – whether it was indigenous or brought in by external sources such as meteorites. The recent research offers a compelling answer to this question while raising even more profound inquiries.
The majority of the detected carbon dioxide was found within a region known as Tara Regio, where sodium chloride – table salt – was previously identified. Tara Regio, often referred to as “chaos terrain,” exhibits a fractured landscape, possibly resulting from interactions between the moon’s icy surface and the speculated subsurface ocean.
It’s important to note that when scientists refer to a “habitable environment” on Europa, they are alluding to a salty ocean concealed beneath an ice shell estimated to be 10 to 15 miles thick. Europa is subjected to harsh conditions, with sunlight being approximately 25 times fainter than on Earth and relentless radiation and gravity from Jupiter.
However, these extreme conditions could also yield the heat and nutrients necessary for life, thanks to tidal flexing.
Despite the stark differences in environmental factors, the discovery of carbon on Europa has stirred excitement within the scientific community. Europa, though smaller than Earth’s moon, is believed to harbor more than twice the amount of water present in all of Earth’s oceans combined.
This groundbreaking revelation comes ahead of NASA’s ambitious Europa Clipper mission, set to launch in October 2024 and arrive at Europa in 2030.