Washington, Aug 9 (): Europa — the sixth closest moon of Jupiter has a type of environment that could possibly be the right condition for microbial life, according to NASA.
Jupiter has more than 60 moons, but there are four moons that are the largest among others. These moons were named as the Galilean satellites as they were first spotted by astronomer Galileo Galilei.
Among all the moons, Europa is thought to be a possible home of life, due to the fact that its icy surface covers a world-wide water ocean heated by tidal forces from Jupiter.
Researchers said most of the information what scientists know about Jupiter’s moon Europa have been gathered from a dozen or so close flybys from NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1979 and NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the mid-to-late 1990s.
These close flybys revealed that Europa had an appealing indication of a liquid water ocean under its surface. NASA says Europa is slightly smaller than the Earth’s Moon. Astronomers believe, like the Earth, Europa has a rocky mantle, a surface ocean of salty water and an iron core.
However, the ocean is deep enough to hide the entire surface of Europa. The ocean surface is also globally frozen over, given its distance from the sun. According to NASA, this type of environment could possibly be the right conditions for microbial life.
Robert Pappalardo, the study’s lead author, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena said if one day humans send a robotic lander to the surface of Europa, they needed to know what to look for and what tools it should carry.
A lot of preparation is needed before humans could land on Europa, but studies like these would help them focus on the technologies required to get them there and on the data needed to help them look out for possible landing locations, he said.
Pappalardo said Europa is the most likely place in our solar system beyond Earth to have life and a landed mission would be the best way to search for signs of life.