NASA officials say there’s probably an ocean below the icey exterior of Jupiter’s moon of Europa.
The space agency used the Hubble Space Telescope to find evidence of water ice plumes leaving Europa. NASA suspects Europa has an icy shell on top of an ocean of liquid water, but isn’t ready to confirm it yet.
“Observations indicate that [Europa has] a global saline [salty] ocean under the ice.” William Sparks, an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said during a press conference attended by The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Europa is a truly compelling astrobiological target.”
The space agency put out an unusually cryptic press release Sept. 21 claiming it found “surprising activity” on Jupiter’s moon Europa, which many in the media suspected may have been signs of life on the moon. NASA called a similar emergency press conference when they announced the discovery of flowing water on Mars last September.
“Despite what some media have reported, this finding has nothing to do with detecting life on Europa,” Dwayne Brown, a NASA spokesperson, said during the conference.
Scientists generally agree Europa is one of the most likely places in our solar system where alien life could develop. Life could exist in its ice-covered ocean — perhaps in an environment similar to deep-ocean hydrothermal vents where life on Earth may have emerged.
“On Earth, life is found wherever there is energy and water,” Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA headquarters in Washington, told the conference.
NASA has even found clay-like minerals associated with organic matter on Earth on the icy crust of Europa.
NASA is already constructing a probe to Jupiter’s Moon, dubbed The Europa Clipper, which would investigate the icy moon’s potential habitability for human colonization and alien life. Europa probably has watery oceans similar to those of Earth’s below the ice, which are likely kept warm by complex gravitational interactions and the planet’s core.
However, NASA’s attempts to explore Europa have been prevented by President Barack Obama. The president requested NASA’s mission to Europa receive only $49.6 million in 2017, far less than the $175 million the mission got from Congress in 2016. Much of the money not spent on the probe would go to global warming research. A rival proposal from the House of Representatives would allocate $260 million to fully fund the mission for the next year.
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