Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Europa Does The Wave To Generate Heat
by Staff Writers
Seattle WA (SPX) Dec 15, 2008

There is evidence of a liquid ocean beneath the ice and, if there is volcanic activity on the sea floor, this could be a recipe for generating microorganisms that live without sunlight, perhaps like the microorganisms found at hydrothermal vents and other places on Earth.

One of the moons in our solar system that scientists think has the potential to harbor life may have a far more dynamic ocean than previously thought.

If the moon Europa is tilted on its axis even slightly as it orbits the giant planet Jupiter, then Jupiter's gravitational pull could be creating powerful waves in Europa's ocean, according to Robert Tyler, an oceanographer with the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory and author of a letter in the Dec. 11 Nature. As those waves dissipate, they would give off significant heat energy.

Depending on the amount of tilt, the heat generated by the ocean flow could be 100 to thousands of times greater than the heat generated by the flexing of Europa's rocky core in response to gravitational pull from Jupiter and the other moons circling that planet.

That's the current assumption - that oceans on moons are heated mainly by this flexing of their cores. In the case of Europa, it also has been thought that the thick ice covering its ocean probably generates some heat as two sides of cracked ice rub together in response to gravitational pull.

"If my work is correct then the heat source for Europa's ocean is the ocean itself rather than what's above or below it," Tyler says. "And we must form a new vision of the ocean habitat that involves strong ocean flow rather than the previously assumed sluggish flows."

Both are important considerations if exploratory missions are ever sent to Europa in search of life. Europa, which is slightly smaller than Earth's moon, is one of Jupiter's 63 moons. With surface temperatures as cold as minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit, Europa's surface is covered with a thick layer of ice.

There is evidence of a liquid ocean beneath the ice and, if there is volcanic activity on the sea floor, this could be a recipe for generating microorganisms that live without sunlight, perhaps like the microorganisms found at hydrothermal vents and other places on Earth.

Many planets and moons are known to be tilted within their orbital plane. The Earth, for example, has an axial tilt of about 23 degrees. It's why the northern and southern hemispheres have different seasons, depending on whether they are tilted more toward or away from the sun.

Previous theoretical calculations expected Europa to have an axial tilt of at least 0.1 degrees. It hasn't been measured and could be bigger than this. But even at this minimum value the tidal flow on Europa using Tyler's new calculation is quite strong - some 10 centimeters a second - and enough to cause significant heating.

The new calculation differs from previous ones in that it allows a more realistic dynamic response of the ocean to the tidal forces.

His assumptions and calculations led him to say that he thinks this kind of wave action could be the dominant heat source in the oceans of Europa and other moons.

"But this proposal is a relatively new contender - so let's see how it does," he says.

Tyler is the sole author of the letter in Nature. His work was supported by NASA's Outer Planets Research program.


Related Links
University of Washington
Jupiter and its Moons
Explore The Ring World of Saturn and her moons
The million outer planets of a star called Sol
News Flash at Mercury

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Exploring Europa On Earth
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Dec 09, 2008
Beneath the ice-covered surface of Jupiter's giant moon Europa, a vast ocean circles the globe. It is one of the few places in our solar system where, scientists believe, life may have taken hold. Various ideas have been proposed about how life could survive in that frigid environment. One suggestion is that hydrothermal vents, like those that dot the floor of Earth's oceans, are also pres ... read more

Macao's University To Analyze Data From China's Moon Probe

Biggest Full Moon Of The Year

China's First Moon Probe Lowers Orbit For Further Exploration

Goodyear And NASA Successfully Recreate Original Moon Tire

European Mars500 Participants Announced

Important Role Of Groundwater Springs In Shaping Mars

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Completes Prime Mission

HiRISE Camera Captures High-Resolution 3D Images Of Mars

Space Mission Commander Gives Clues On First Hong Kong Astronaut

India, Russia sign nuclear energy, space deals

Teddy take-off: bears launched into space

Space Mission Commander Gives Clues On First Hong Kong Astronaut

China To Launch New Remote Sensing Satellite

HK, Macao Scientists Expected To Participate In China's Aerospace Project

China's Future Astronauts Will Be Scientists

China Launches Remote Sensing Satellite

A Station Celebration

NASA Signs Modification To Contract With Russian Space Agency

New Russian Space Freighter Docks With World Orbital Station

ESA wants International Space Station to live longer

ILS Proton Successfully Launches Ciel II Satellite

Final Payload Integration Begins On Ariane 5's Sixth Flight Of 2008

Proton-M Rocket With Canadian Commsat Launched From Baikonur

Ciel Satellite Group Spacecraft Ready For Launch

Watching For Wobbles

Planet Formation Could Lie In Stellar Storms Rather Than Gravitational Instability

Ball Aerospace Completes Environmental Testing For Kepler Mission

Predicted Planet Seen - First Since Neptune 162 Years Ago

HP offering aims at penny-pinching IT departments

First Muslim-friendly virtual world goes online

Computer industry celebrates 40 years

Space Foundation Recognizes Three GMV Products As Certified Space Technologies

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement