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Transcript: Europa Download the transcript Fraser: Astronomy Cast Episode 203 for Monday October 18, 2010, Europa. Welcome to Astronomy Cast, our weekly facts-based journey through the cosmos, where we help you understand not only what we know, but how we know what we know.
There may be enough oxygen in the waters of Jupiter's moon Europa to support millions of tons worth of fish, according to a new study. While no one is suggesting there are fish on Europa, this finding suggests the Jovian satellite could be capable of supporting the kinds of life familiar to us here on Earth. Europa, which is roughly the size of Earth's moon, is enveloped by a global ocean about 100 miles deep (160 km), with an icy crust that may be only a few miles thick. From what we know of Earth , where there is water, there is a chance at life, so for many years scientists have speculated that this Jovian moon could support extraterrestrials. As we learned more about Jupiter’s effect on its moons, the possibility for life on Europa grew even more likely.
Galileo plunged into Jupiter's crushing atmosphere on Sept. 21, 2003. The spacecraft was deliberately destroyed to protect one of its own discoveries - a possible ocean beneath the icy crust of the moon Europa. Galileo changed the way we look at our solar system. The spacecraft was the first to fly past an asteroid and the first to discover a moon of an asteroid. It provided the only direct observations of a comet colliding with a planet. Galileo was the first to measure Jupiter's atmosphere with a descent probe and the first to conduct long-term observations of the Jovian system from orbit.
If extraterrestrial life exists on Jupiter's moon Europa, instead of deploying probes to drill past its ice shell to look for aliens in the ocean below, one might just go fossil-hunting on the icy surface. "A prospector sent there could possibly find extraterrestrial life within our lifetimes," suggested planetary scientist Richard Greenberg at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at Tucson. Europa, which is roughly the size of Earth's moon, is enveloped by a global ocean that may be about 100 miles deep (160 km).
The reddish ovals in the center of this image may be areas where water from Europa's underground ocean upwelled and froze on the surface. (Courtesy of Galileo Project, NASA) In a significant finding in the search for life beyond Earth, scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have discovered what appears to be a body of liquid water the volume of the North American Great Lakes locked inside the icy shell of Jupiter's moon Europa. The water could represent a potential habitat for life, and many more such lakes might exist throughout the shallow regions of Europa's shell, lead author Britney Schmidt, a postdoctoral fellow at The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics, writes in the journal Nature .