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A New Way to Search for Life on Europa?

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posted on Apr, 8 2014 @ 10:44 AM
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Now that plumes of icy water vapor have been found erupting from Jupiter's moon Europa, it may be possible to fly a space probe through them, and analyze the material for signs of life. This would greatly simplify the search for life on Europa.

Previously, this seemed to require boring through Europa's thick icy shell, to what is believed to be an underlying ocean. A probe of the potentially life-bearing plumes might be possible in a five to fifteen year time frame.
www.astrobio.net...
edit on 8-4-2014 by Ross 54 because: improved paragraph structure.




posted on Apr, 8 2014 @ 10:58 AM
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Well lets see how far away is Jupiter and her moons?

How Far Away Is Jupiter


Because both planets travel in an elliptical path around the sun, Jupiter's distance from Earth is constantly changing. When the two planets are at their closest point, the distance to Jupiter is only 365 million miles (588 million kilometers). From its closest point, Jupiter shines so brightly that even Venus dims in comparison. At its farthest, the gas giant lies 601 million miles (968 million km) away


So now we have to see where it is in its orbit too? Nah too much work.

If I launched a probe today that I already had predesigned for the mission (long shot there) how long would it take to get there?




Juno, which launched the most recently, on August 5, 2011, will take five years to travel to the gas giant.


I know its been done quicker than that, but I dont think we can just get one there in a matter of days yet...



posted on Apr, 8 2014 @ 11:01 AM
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reply to post by Ross 54
 




A probe of the potentially life-bearing plumes might be possible in a five to fifteen year time frame.


That's an interesting and much less complicated way (than boring holes in the thick ice).
My impatience gets to me though because I always wish these ideas could be implemented much sooner or with existing equipment already near.
I understand it takes time to develope the probes and then the time to get there, but I guess I have fallen victim to the instant gratification mentality in some things.
edit on 4/8/2014 by Chamberf=6 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 8 2014 @ 11:55 AM
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reply to post by Ross 54
 


I say we should do this with Saturn's Moon Enceladus, also. The Cassini probe has already flown through the geysers and did a rudimentary analysis of that water with a mass spectrometer, but Cassini was not specifically equipped to do the detailed analysis of Enceladus' plumes required to find life (we didn't know about Enceladus' geyser plumes when Cassini was launched).

That analysis of Enceladus' water turned up organic molecules and found that Enceladus' sub-surface ocean is about as salty as Earth's oceans. Scientists believe that it is possible that any potential microbial life that may be in Enceladus' ocean may be in that geyser, and falling back to the surface. That's an interesting thought.

Is it Snowing Microbes on Enceladus?

A Fizzy Ocean on Enceladus

The issue now is if they actually want to go ahead with such a mission, do they spend the money on doing it at Europa or do they go to Enceladus? I doubt they have the money to do both (at least not in the near term). So which is it? Europa is closer, but of the two moons, does it offer the more promising prospect for life?


edit on 4/8/2014 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 8 2014 @ 12:06 PM
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Being an open minded optimist, I think we will find alien life of some kind in both Europa, and Enceladus. I eagerly await the NASA probe which is a ways off yet, but fingers are crossed.



posted on Apr, 8 2014 @ 06:26 PM
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3000 mile-wide Europa is considerably warmer than 500 mile Enceladus; 102 K. average, against 75 K. Europa is believed on pretty sound evidence to have a global ocean, with more water than all Earth's oceans. Enceladus may have a small lake near its pole. The trip to Europa is substantially shorter. If we have to choose to investigate one or the other for signs of life, I'd vote for Europa.
edit on 8-4-2014 by Ross 54 because: added information



posted on Apr, 8 2014 @ 06:54 PM
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Ross 54
3000 mile-wide Europa is considerably warmer than 500 mile Enceladus; 102 K. average, against 75 K.

Why, that's downright balmy.



posted on Apr, 8 2014 @ 09:06 PM
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Ross 54
3000 mile-wide Europa is considerably warmer than 500 mile Enceladus; 102 K. average, against 75 K. Europa is believed on pretty sound evidence to have a global ocean, with more water than all Earth's oceans. Enceladus may have a small lake near its pole. The trip to Europa is substantially shorter. If we have to choose to investigate one or the other for signs of life, I'd vote for Europa.
edit on 8-4-2014 by Ross 54 because: added information


I find Europa a compelling place to search for potential, and I think a mission to Europa would be something worth of great consideration. However, there is a reason that Enceladus has become the new "darling" of astrobiologists in the past couple of years. The reason for all of the recent interest in Eanceladus among researchers looking for life elsewhere is that the hypothesized ocean beneath Enceladus (the existence of which has gained additional evidence of confirmation just last week) has been found to have salinity levels similar to Earth's oceans. This suggests that the water itself is in direct contact with the moon's rocky mineral-rich surfaces. This allows the ocean to remain supplied with water-soluble elements that are vital to "life as we know it", such as potassium and phosphorus.

This, along with the fact that the Cassini probe has already "tasted" the water in the geyser plumes of Enceladus and found organic compounds is what has had astrobiologists in a tizzy lately about the prospects of life on Enceladus.

Granted (and as I said above), Europa holds great promise also for places to hunt for potential life, but considering how expensive it is to send a probe to the outer solar system, we should be very prudent in chosing the target for those probes. All I'm saying is that Enceladus looks at LEAST as promising as Europa -- and astrobiologists are starting to believe that it may be even MORE promising.


Here is a great Hypothesis paper by famed NASA astrobioligist Chris McCay and equally famed planetary scientist Caroline Porco (et al) that discusses hypotheses surrounding the potential for life in the ocean Enceladus, and the search for that life:

The Possible Origin and Persistence of Life on Enceladus and Detection of Biomarkers in the Plume
Note: Link opens directly to a PDF file


Additional reading:

Looking For Alien Life? Try Saturn's Moon Enceladus

Ocean discovered on Enceladus may be best place to look for alien life



edit on 4/8/2014 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 9 2014 @ 11:27 AM
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Europa's ocean in believed to be in be in global contact with the underlying rocky layer. Access to minerals useful to living things is very likely.
Organic materials probably exist on the surfaces of all outer solar system bodies that have solid surfaces. Impacts of comets and primitive asteroids would have supplied these. These would likely become entrained in icy plumes.
Organic materials in the interiors of Europa and Enceladus seem likely, too, due to the same sources. These could have been acquired during the formation of these bodies.
Jupiter much more massive than Saturn, and Europa, much more massive than Enceladus, would seem to have gravitationally attracted many more comets and asteroids at this time, and so collected much larger stocks of organic materials on which life could have been based.




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