A lake in Iceland is giving scientists clues about how alien life could develop on Jupiter’s moon, according to new research published Friday.
Researchers with Iceland’s science institute Matís sampled Skaftárkatlar lake and discovered several strains of bacteria previously unknown to scientists. The finding suggests life may be a lot more likely to develop on Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, than previously thought.
“Our preliminary results reveal new branches of life here,” Dr. Gregory Farrant, a lead investigator at Matís, said in a press statement. “It’s tricky to analyse DNA of microbes that are totally new to science because there’s no prior knowledge about them. We’re dealing with a lot of unknowns.”
Skaftárkatlar lake resembles the geology of the distant moon, and offers a unique opportunity for scientists to study how life might evolve in Europa’s subterranean ocean. Farrant’s team concluded microorganisms can survive on sulphur-rich water deep in the lake.
NASA officials previously found clay-like minerals associated with organic matter on Earth on the moon’s icy crust. Europa is one of the most likely places in our solar system to find alien life, NASA scientists previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Europa probably has a watery and salty oceans similar to those of Earth’s below the ice, likely kept warm by complex gravitational interactions and the planet’s core. Life could exist in the ice-covered ocean — perhaps in an environment similar to the deep-ocean hydrothermal vents where life on Earth may have emerged.
NASA approved a new robotic mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa after a major internal review. NASA began preliminary design and testing in February, and the space agency intends to launch a probe sometime in the early 2020s. The Europa Clipper probe will investigate the icy moon’s potential for human colonization and alien life.
NASA previously used the Hubble Space Telescope to find evidence for water ice plumes jetting off Europa, leading the agency to suspect the moon has an icy shell on top of an ocean of liquid water. NASA has also found evidence of clay-like minerals associated with organic matter on the icy crust of Europa.
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