24/7 Space News
Hidden ocean the source of CO2 on Jupiter moon
Hidden ocean the source of CO2 on Jupiter moon
By Daniel Lawler
Paris (AFP) Sept 21, 2023

Carbon dioxide detected on Jupiter's moon Europa comes from the vast ocean beneath its icy shell, research using James Webb Space Telescope data indicated on Thursday, potentially bolstering hopes the hidden water could harbour life.

Scientists are confident there is a huge ocean of saltwater kilometres below Europa's ice-covered surface, making the moon a prime candidate for hosting extra-terrestrial life in our Solar System.

But determining whether this concealed ocean has the right chemical elements to support life has been difficult.

Carbon dioxide -- one of the key building blocks of life -- has been detected on Europa's surface, but whether it rose up from the ocean below remained an open question.

Aiming to find an answer, two US-led teams of researchers used data from the Webb telescope's near-infrared spectrometer to map CO2 on the surface of Europa, publishing their results in separate studies in the journal Science.

The most CO2 was in a 1,800 kilometre-wide (1,120 mile) area called Tara Regio, where there is a lot of "chaos terrain" with jagged ridges and cracks.

Exactly what creates chaos terrain is not well understood, but one theory is that warm water from the ocean rises up to melt the surface ice, which then re-freezes over time into new uneven crags.

The first study used the Webb data to look at whether the CO2 could have come from somewhere other than the ocean below -- hitching a ride on a meteorite, for example.

Samantha Trumbo, a planetary scientist at Cornell University and the study's lead author, told AFP they concluded that the carbon was "ultimately derived from the interior, likely the internal ocean".

But the researchers could not rule out that the carbon came up from the planet's interior as rock-like carbonate minerals, which irradiation could then have broken apart to become CO2.

- 'Very exciting' -

Table salt has also been detected in Tara Regio -- making the area significantly more yellow than the rest of Europa's scarred white plains -- and scientists think it may also have come up from the ocean.

"So now we've got salt, we've got CO2: we're starting to learn a little bit more what that internal chemistry might look like," Trumbo said.

Looking at the same Webb data, the second study also indicated that "carbon is sourced from within Europa".

The NASA-led researchers had also hoped to find plumes of water or volatile gases shooting out of the moon's surface, but failed to spot any.

Two major space missions plan to get a closer look at Europa and its mysterious ocean.

The European Space Agency's Jupiter moon probe Juice launched in April, while NASA's Europa Clipper mission is scheduled to blast off in October 2024.

Juice project scientist Olivier Witasse welcomed the two new studies, saying they were "very exciting".

When Juice flies past Europa twice in 2032, it will collect "a wealth of new information," including about surface chemistry, he told AFP.

Juice will also look at two of Jupiter's other moons -- Ganymede and Callisto -- where carbon has been detected.

Witasse emphasised that the goal of the Juice mission, like the Europa Clipper, is to find out whether these icy moons have the right conditions to support life -- they will not be able to confirm if aliens exist.

And even if some future mission does discover life, anything able to live in such extreme conditions under more than 10 kilometres of ice is expected to be tiny, such as primitive microbes.

Related Links
The million outer planets of a star called Sol

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Juice: why's it taking sooo long
Paris (ESA) Sep 20, 2023
At their closest point in orbit, Earth and Jupiter are separated by almost 600 million kilometres. At the time of writing, five months after launch, Juice has already travelled 370 million kilometres, yet in time it's only 5% of the way there. Why is it taking sooo long? The answer depends on a variety of factors that flight dynamics experts at ESA's Mission Control know well, from the amount fuel used to the power of the rocket, mass of a spacecraft and geometry of the planets. Based on thi ... read more

Kayhan Space Raises $7 million, Unveils First-Ever Autonomous Space Traffic Coordination Service

Two Russians, American reach space station

Rockets and Porsches: rich Russians flock to Baikonur spaceport

Soyuz hatch opens, Expedition 69 expands to 10 crewmates

'Anomaly' ends Rocket Lab launch mid-flight

SpaceX deploys another 22 Starlink satellites

Third Subscale Booster for future Artemis missions fires up at Marshall

Mini space thruster that runs on water

New milestones despite tricky boulders

Curiosity reaches Mars ridge where water left debris pileup

Reading the Rocks: The Importance of the Margin Carbonate Unit on Mars

New Mars gravity analysis improves understanding of possible ancient ocean

Tianzhou 5 spacecraft burns up on Earth reentry

Crew of Shenzhou XV mission honored for six-month space odyssey

China solicits names for manned lunar exploration vehicles

From rice to quantum gas: China's targets pioneering space research

Intelsat delivers new reliable broadcast connectivity service

Terran Orbital announces pricing of Public Offering

Terran Orbital announces Proposed Public Offering

Sidus Space secures position on upcoming Bandwagon Mission

FAA proposes rule to reduce space debris as SpaceX launches 22 satellites into orbit

China builds new radio telescope to support lunar, deep-space missions

AFRL'S newest supercomputer 'Raider' promises to compute years' worth of data in days

Skyloom and Satellogic sign agreement for Multipath Optical Comms Data Transmission

Tiny sea creatures reveal the ancient origins of neurons

Exoplanet with a large iron core adds to puzzle of how planets form

New recipes for origin of life may point way to distant, inhabited planets

On the road to spotting alien life

Webb finds carbon source on surface of Jupiter's moon Europa

Juice: why's it taking sooo long

Hidden ocean the source of CO2 on Jupiter moon

Possible existence of Earth-like planet predicted in Outskirts of Solar System

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news 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. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. 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. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.