Hey Bros, It Sounds Like Europa Is More Like Earth Than We Previously Thought

Europa, bros. It’s pretty fucking dope. It’s so chill, in fact, we should call it Eur-Bro-Pa. Or Eur-Dope-A. Both good names for Jupiter’s third-largest moon, in my opinion.

It’s of course not nearly as chill as Earth, which has things like blue whales and sperm whales and humpback whales and orcas and beluga whales. Whales are fucking dope, man, is what I’m saying.

Could Europa have whales?

It’s a fucking crazy question to think about. It’s certainly got an ocean, one scientists think stays warm from the tidal forces Jupiter exerts on it. Warm enough for space whales? Swimming through an ocean on a moon orbiting Jupiter? Those whales would blow our whales away. If they exist.

Which… they probably don’t. But in a recent paper, scientists with NASA say Europa may have a lot of similarities to Earth, especially when it comes to the chemical composition that could spawn life.

From Astronomy Magazine:

A new NASA study modeling conditions in the ocean of Jupiter’s moon Europa suggests that the necessary balance of chemical energy for life could exist there, even if the moon lacks volcanic hydrothermal activity.

Europa is strongly believed to hide a deep ocean of salty liquid water beneath its icy shell. Whether the jovian moon has the raw materials and chemical energy in the right proportions to support biology is a topic of intense scientific interest.

The paper is titled ‘Geophysical controls of chemical disequilibria in Europa‘ and they found that yes, Europa has the right kind of chemical composition for life.

In a new study, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, compared Europa’s potential for producing hydrogen and oxygen with that of Earth, through processes that do not directly involve volcanism. The balance of these two elements is a key indicator of the energy available for life. The study found that the amounts would be comparable in scale; on both worlds, oxygen production is about 10 times higher than hydrogen production.

The work draws attention to the ways that Europa’s rocky interior may be much more complex and possibly earthlike than people typically think.

The other half of Europa’s chemical-energy-for-life equation would be provided by oxidants — oxygen and other compounds that could react with the hydrogen — being cycled into the europan ocean from the icy surface above. Europa is bathed in radiation from Jupiter, which splits apart water ice molecules to create these materials. Scientists have inferred that Europa’s surface is being cycled back into its interior, which could carry oxidants into the ocean.

While that doesn’t mean anything, it still is a positive sign for life outside Earth.

“The oxidants from the ice are like the positive terminal of a battery, and the chemicals from the seafloor, called reductants, are like the negative terminal. Whether or not life and biological processes complete the circuit is part of what motivates our exploration of Europa,” said Kevin Hand from JPL.

And guess what? We’re gonna find out because we’re sending a probe there in the next 15 years to explore Europa’s oceans.

Will it see whales?

God. I fucking hope so.

[Via The Washington Post]