Research results show that Jupiter's ice-covered moon Europa may be unsuitable for living organisms due to lack of oxygen


NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Jupiter's second moon, Europa , is thought to have an ocean of liquid water inside its ice-covered crust, leading astronomers to expect extraterrestrial life to exist. are collecting. However, a new study analyzing observation data from NASA's Juno spacecraft suggests that the amount of oxygen produced on Europa is lower than previously thought, and may not be suitable for supporting life. It turned out to be sexual.

Oxygen production from dissociation of Europa's water-ice surface | Nature Astronomy

Europa, Thought to Be Habitable, May Be Oxygen-Starved - The New York Times

Jupiter's moon Europa produces less oxygen than we thought – it may affect our chances of finding life there

Jupiter's moon Europa lacks oxygen, making it less hospitable for sustaining life | Live Science

Europa is a satellite with a diameter of about 3,100 km, which is slightly smaller than the Earth's moon, and it is thought that there is an ocean about twice as large as the Earth's inside the crust. In addition, although Europa is far from the Sun, thermal energy is generated through interaction with Jupiter, and it has been confirmed that Europa contains carbon dioxide and other chemical elements that are important for life, so there is no possibility that life exists. It is expected that there is a possibility that

Although Europa has the basic building blocks of life: water, appropriate chemical elements, and a heat source, the way oxygen, which is important for life, is produced differs from Earth. On Earth, oxygen is sent into the atmosphere through photosynthesis by plants and plankton, but on Europa, charged particles flying from space collide with the ice crust and break down frozen water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules.

Jamie Salai , an astronomical plasma physicist at Princeton University in the US, said: 'The icy crust is like the lungs of Europa. The surface that protects the ocean from this harmful radiation is, in a sense, a breathing space. 'We are doing this,' he said.

by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Previous studies using computer models estimated that 1000 kg of oxygen is produced every second on Europa. A new research team led by Sarai analyzed observational data from Juno, the Jupiter probe launched by NASA in 2011.

Juno is exploring not only Jupiter but also Jupiter's moons by flyby, and in September 2022 it conducted a flyby of Europa . Juno is said to have measured hydrogen molecules using a charged particle observation device as it passed approximately 352 km above the surface of Europa.

Of the hydrogen and oxygen produced on Europa's surface, the lighter hydrogen floats in the atmosphere, but the heavier oxygen remains near the surface or becomes trapped in ice. These are the same water molecules that have been decomposed, so by measuring the amount of hydrogen, you can tell how much oxygen was produced.

The analysis found that Europa's surface produces only about 12 kilograms of oxygen per second, far less than previous computer models estimated. 'This is at the lowest end of what we expected,' Sarai said, but points out that this does not necessarily mean there is no life on Europa.

At the time of writing, there are no plans for Juno to fly by Europa again, but the research team will continue to analyze observation data. 'This discovery is just the tip of the iceberg,' Sarai said. 'We will spend years digging through the data from this one flyby to find all the treasures.'

In addition, NASA plans to launch the spacecraft 'Europa Clipper' to explore life on Europa in 2024, and plans to conduct nearly 50 flybys after arriving at Europa in 2030.

The main body of the spacecraft ``Europa Clipper'' that searches for life on Jupiter's satellite Europa is completed - GIGAZINE

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