By: Sidney R.
When thinking about life outside of our Earth, the possibility is thought to be from infinite to impossible. Theories about alien-life on Mars are spread far and wide, but for years now scientists have been wondering about one of Jupiter’s many moons: Europa. While there are more like it, Europa has qualities for life that make it the interest of NASA and more.
Europa is covered in ice, and though that sounds unappealing for life, what matters more is what’s underneath the frozen exterior. This moon is one of the only locations beside Earth to hold a mass of water, and in this case- an ocean spanning for sixty miles. The ice, six miles thick, hides its possibilities.
For whatever creature existing down below, likely a microbe or “microorganism, there are conditions to its survival. Despite water’s importance to theories, further observation and explanations are required. It’s broken down to this- the microbe will need a source of energy, food, water and survivable living conditions.
Most moons, including Europa, have an important relationship with its “mother planet”, which allows its to be heated by its closer presence to Jupiter. So, in spite of the icy planet, warmth is surprising not the biggest issue.
Scientists offer can more evidence to show how the living conditions may not be as bad as they seem. So far, it seems entirely plausible that Europa has tectonic plates, similar to ours on Earth.
The potential of tectonics introduces subduction, which occurs when plate tectonics press against Earth’s hot mantle. Since Europa does not experience heat in that form, scientists believe that its amounts of salt would have the same effect. Salt, by being denser than the ice, adds weight to the moon’s plates and should cause the process. The importance of subduction lies in giving us an idea on how a form of life could have an energy source and nutrients.
Explaining the theory behind this creature itself, scientists have turned to an organism already presiding on Earth that presents interesting and comparable ideas: the Desulforudis audaxviator.
This microbe lives in Africa, where it has survived underground through extreme conditions of a lack of oxygen without sunlight, as well as uniquely consuming radioactivity as food. They are a wonder to the bacterial ecosystem already and give an intriguing template for Europa’s possible life.
All in all, the alien bacteria have been theorised to live off nutrients from the moon’s tectonic plates as well as a byproduct of uranium from the moon’s core. Similar to Desulforudis audaxviator, it would be able to live in the dark reaches of Europa’s hidden ocean, without the sunlight most creatures would need.
There are other moons that have similar environments, such as Saturn’s Enceladus, that NASA plans to send explorations to in the future. The future of research on aliens, though maybe less notable then green bobble-headed people, is only a decade away.