Jupiter’s moon Europa is thought to have more water under its icy crust than all the oceans on our planet’s surface. This liquid ocean is of interest to scientists because it is believed that water is the key to life, making Europe a candidate for the best place to find life in the solar system. Now a potential new feature on the moon is adding to this possibility. The models indicate the presence of marine floor volcanoes. In a study published in the Geophysical Research Letters, researchers suggested that the bottom of Europe has enough interior to generate hydropower. Volcanoes may not appear in exactly life-friendly form as soon as they explode, but they do create favorable conditions.
Their potential presence in Europe gives the sea two important things: chemical and energy. On Earth, underwater volcanoes and aquatic winds are mixed with life, and there are places where all life on Earth began to believe. The researchers looked at Jupiter’s gravitational pull and a few other moons in Europe. These interactions create heat in the inner layers of stress and give it the energy of a volcano on Jupiter’s closest companion moon Io. The researchers’ model suggests that this could happen in Europe as well. Marie Běhounková of Charles University in the Czech Republic said in a statement, “Our findings provide additional evidence that Europe’s subcontinent sea may be a suitable environment for the emergence of life.”
“Europa is a rare planet that can sustain volcanic activity for billions of years and is probably the only reservoir and long-term energy source outside of Earth.” According to the model, volcanic activity in Europe is more likely to occur at higher latitudes and has been possible for millions of years. A possible way to confirm whether the model is correct will come in the early 2030s when NASA’s Europa Clipper and the European Space Agency’s Jupiter IC Moons Explorer (GUIS) Jovian system will begin their search.
“The possibility of a warm, rocky interior and volcanoes on the sea surface of Europe increases the chances of Europe becoming a sea living environment,” said Robert Pappalardo, a Europa Clipper project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “While we may be able to test it with Europa Clipper’s planned gravity and compositional measurements, it’s an exciting possibility.” Neither the Europa Clipper nor Zeus is designed to search for life, but their orbital studies will help us to work if life is possible and perhaps beyond.