Is there life beyond Earth, even in our Solar System? This mission might be humanity’s best hope of finding it.
The biggest question facing humanity might be, “Does life exists beyond Earth?”
Other solar systems might possess advanced or planet-altering biological activity, but simple life could exist right here.
In our own Solar System, eight different worlds might be home to unicellular life.
Europa, among the Solar System largest moons, might experience the most life-friendly conditions.
- harvests and metabolizes energy/resources,
- responds to external stimuli,
- grows and adapts,
- and reproduces.
While liquid oceans cover 70% of our surface, diminutive Europa has more water than planet Earth.
Beneath a thick layer of water-ice, Europa’s interior experiences high pressures and temperatures.
Nearby, massive Jupiter exerts tidal forces on Europa, heating its core while shearing and cracking its icy surface.
The internal heat melts Europa’s pressurized ice, creating a deep, liquid ocean.
Hydrothermal vents should line the seafloor: where energy gradients could enable life.
In 2023, a new NASA mission — the Europa Clipper — will investigate Europa for biosignatures.
This orbiter will utilize nine instruments to investigate Europa’s oceans and atmosphere.
Dozens of flybys will reveal their compositions, temperatures, depths, salinities, time-variations, etc.
With life teeming beneath Earth’s Antarctic ices, Europa may be humanity’s best hope for discovering extraterrestrial life.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.