An Ocean Beyond Earth: Europa Awaits
It’s no secret that Earth’s ocean is filled with life, much of it still a mystery or totally unknown to science. But what about the ocean on other worlds? I’m not talking about sci-fi planets or suspected alien Earths around other stars, but right here in our own solar system, where an ocean even deeper than ours lies hidden beneath a global shell of ice.
Scientists believe there is an ocean hidden beneath the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. In the video above, NASA-JPL astrobiologist Kevin Hand explains why scientists are so excited about the potential of this ice-covered world to answer one of humanity’s most profound questions: does life exist beyond Earth?
To learn more about Europa click here, and see the latest enhanced version of a Galileo image of Europa below:
Images taken through near-infrared, green and violet filters have been combined to produce this view, approximating what our eyes might see. The images have been corrected for light scattered outside of the image to provide a color correction that is calibrated by wavelength. Gaps in the images have been filled with simulated color based on the color of nearby surface areas with similar terrain types.
Areas that appear blue or white contain relatively pure water ice, while reddish and brownish areas include non-ice components in higher concentrations.
This global color view consists of images acquired by the Galileo Solid-State Imaging (SSI) experiment on the spacecraft’s first and fourteenth orbits through the Jupiter system, in 1995 and 1998, respectively. Image scale is 2 miles (1.6 kilometers) per pixel. North on Europa is at right. (Source)
“All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there.”
The hell with that, HAL. Let’s go!
UPDATE FEB. 2015: NASA is now a step closer to Europa, with $30 million requested for preliminary research into an exploration mission called Europa Clipper. Read more here.