Scientists have obtained top evidence showing that there is water just below the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. Thorough analysis of the moon’s surface has hinted, strongly, of plumes of warmer water beneath its icy shell which is melting and cracking the outer layers. The results which have been published in the journal ‘Nature’ has said that a small lake exists just 3km under the crust.
Potential for life
What has got scientists excited is that any liquid could mean that there is the potential for life, clues for which scientists have been doing work for many years. Using technology at that makes this research possible, scientists have now discovered hints of what they had suspected for many years, an ocean lying around 100 miles deep down into the moon’s surface.
It is estimated that the buried lake under the region called Thera Macula could contain as much water as the Great Lakes in the United States. The liquid that is hidden could go some way to explaining the jumbled and chaotic surface features which have had scientists scratching their heads for more than a decade.
On the moon, warm and pure ice moves up through the crust until it reaches a contaminated layer within a few miles of the surface. The dirty layer will then thaw which forms a lens-shaped lake, eventually cracking the weakened ice that sits above it.
These damaged regions such as Conamara and Thera Macula cover an area of nearly 50% across Europa. This also signals that the moon’s crust might host many big lakes very close to the surface, and early research has estimated that the pocket beneath the Thera Macula could remain liquid for as long as 300,000 years.
The team who have been studying the moon have arrived at two conflicting theories which have attempted to explain the terrains have said the cavities of water could be potential targets for a future life-seeking lander, but before any plans are made to visit the region they would need to pinpoint the exact location of the lakes.
Europa’s lakes could instigate the moon back into the extraterrestrial spotlight, since the new information has implied that the moon is actively sending materials from the surface – such as oxygen – into its ocean, potentially setting it with all the requirements needed for life.
The team of scientists used observations on earth with the fractured and collapsing Antartic ice shelves and ice caps which are placed on top of subglacial Icelandic volcanoes.