Bold explanation of structures on Europa’s surface raises chances of spotting extraterrestrial life

(ORDO NEWS) — Europa is a prime candidate for detecting extraterrestrial life in the solar system, and its deep subsurface salt water ocean has attracted scientists’ attention for decades.

But this ocean is covered with an ice shell tens of kilometers thick, so exploring it is a big challenge for scientists.

But a growing body of new scientific evidence suggests that this icy shell may not be a barrier, but rather a dynamic system – and even represent itself as a possible habitat for living organisms.

Radar observations of the ice layer covering the territory of Greenland revealed geological structures in the form of a “double ridge”, the analysis of the origin of which led to the conclusion that reservoirs with liquid water may be in the ice crust of Europa. Even more than that – such reservoirs can be widespread in Europe, the authors found out.

“Because these reservoirs of liquid water are closer to the surface than the deep subsurface ocean, they can more efficiently exchange chemicals with space, other moons of Jupiter and volcanoes located on the surface of Io.

As a result, the likelihood of life originating in such reservoirs is much higher than deep in the subsurface ocean,” said Dustin Schroeder, lead author of the new study, from Stanford University, USA.

In Greenland, on Earth, double ice ridges are formed as a result of the freezing of water squeezed out of subsurface reservoirs, formed as a result of water seeping into them from the surface.

On Europa, the mechanism for the formation of ridges in general remains the same, but water seeps into them not from above, from the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon, but from below – from its subsurface ocean.

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