Scientists at Brown University have found new evidence suggesting that the icy moon of Jupiter, Europa, could harbor alien life. As reported by Express UK the evidence depends on the possible tectonic activity that occurs below the surface of the moon. As the tectonic plates continually press against each other, there is a greater possibility that subduction is also taking place. The process of subduction, according to the geophysicists, makes life on Earth possible, and the same process also applies to Europe.
"If there really is life in that ocean, subduction offers a way to supply the nutrients it would need," explains Brandon Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences.
Like Earth, Europe harbors large salty oceans teeming with oxygen and several minerals that play an integral role in the maintenance of life. For years, scientists have been studying the tectonic features of the icy moon, and successive findings point to the possibility of sufficient tectonic activity to initiate the process of subduction in the lunar oceans.
The team created a simulation model of Europe in order to map its tectonic activity. The findings suggest that beneath the cold surface of the moon there is a region of slightly warmer ice. Since the lunar crust contains a high concentration of salt, the hottest slabs of ice are constantly pushed to the deepest reaches of the ocean. This causes the tectonic plates to change and overlap.
"Adding salt to an ice slab would be like adding small weights because salt is denser than ice," said the assistant professor.
"Then, instead of temperature, we show that differences in the salt content of ice could allow subduction in Europe."
– India TV (@indiatvnews) December 6, 2017
While tectonic activity on Earth causes natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic explosions, it also makes it possible for the planet to maintain life, mainly because the changing plates help the carbon to circulate through our seas The subduction process on Earth, however, is driven mainly by temperature differences between relatively cold dense rock plates and the surrounding warm mantle. It is different for Europe where tectonic activity is possible thanks to the high salt content rather than the differences in temperature.
The team's groundbreaking discovery is far from conclusive, but it reinforces the possibility that Europe's moon harbors alien life.
– NASA Solar System (@NASASolarSystem) November 7, 2017
In addition, NASA is also making preparations to search for extraterrestrial life on Jupiter's moon. Named the Europa Clipper mission, NASA's plan consists of a solar-powered robot that navigates the surface of the moon. By taking pictures of the surface of the moon, NASA hopes to obtain a more detailed map of Europe's environment. Outer Places reports that the mission could cost up to $ 4 billion.