The Oceans of Europa: Jupiter’s Cradle of Life?
The past decade has turned the search for habitable environments beyond Earth inside out. The most likely places may not be on Earth-like worlds in the so-called “Goldilocks zone” near the sun, but farther beyond—in the cold cellar of the solar system beyond the asteroid belt.
This shift began when NASA’s Galileo spacecraft discovered evidence of a huge ocean under the solid ice shell of Europa, a large moon orbiting Jupiter. This global ocean appears to contain more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined. Further exploration has shown that, in defiance of common sense, liquid water is plentiful in the outer solar system, where temperatures measure in the hundreds of degrees below freezing.
NASA headquarters program scientist Curt Niebur discusses Europa and its importance in our search for oases beyond Earth.
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