A new paper that was published in Nature Astronomy takes a look at Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, trying to understand if there could be any life hiding under its surface.
Searching for alien life
Scientists have always wondered if there could be any life hidden beneath the icy surface of Europa and they believe this is one of the best places to search for extraterrestrial life in our Solar System. However, it is not so easy to discover life in such a harsh world, where things could be concealed under the surface of Jupiter’s moon.
Based on this new study, scientists think that amino acids might be found only three centimeters beneath Europa’s surface. It is believed that these signs of life could stay underneath for 10 million years, as they would be protected against the radiation from outside. This is good news, because it would mean that scientists don’t have to search too far in order to discover life on Europa.
The search might have to wait
However, NASA does not currently have the necessary means to dig that deep under the surface of the moon. According to Tom Nordheim, a scientist from NASA, there is another concern that we have and that would be making sure that any spacecraft sent to the moon will land in the right place.
What are the plans?
Based on what we know so far, NASA is intending to send two missions to Jupiter’s moon. One initial flyby is expected to launch in 2022 and its purpose would be to examine which are the best regions to land in. The second mission would be a lander wandering over the surface of the icy world.
The agency is truly hopeful that Europa might be the first cosmic body in our Solar System to discover alien life on. The main reason lies behind the fact it is believed that a massive liquid ocean exists under the icy crust of the moon, which could contain life forms. One problem could be the radiation that hits Europa, but as the new study reveals, the radiation does not make its way as deep into the surface as previously expected.