Time & Again, Jupiter’s moon Europa has exhibited Earth-like ‘life favouring’ properties. It is almost a little difficult to find a place that shares so many similarities with our planet.
A subsurface ocean covers its surface and a thick crust of ice is protecting it from space radiations. Ocean’s composition is kindred to that of earth’s.
It is estimated that the water here contains the right mix of oxygen and nutrients wherein microbial & multi-cellular life can thrive.
Further, Nasa scientists have tried to observe the chemical changes taking place in the ocean. And are assuming that our planet also hosts similar geochemical processes. This assumption can be found in the new research published in a journal, Geophysical Research Letters.
Steve Vance from Nasa’s JPL in Pasadena, California, stated that “we’re studying an alien ocean using methods developed to understand the movement of energy and nutrients in the earth’s systems”.
It is imperative to mention that the same study also established that Europa’s oxygen production is around ten times higher than hydrogen- just like it is on Earth.
Also, Vance and his colleagues also studied about the amount of hydrogen released in Europa’s ocean during the process of serpentinization. Researchers also considered how cracks in Europa’s seafloor can open up with time because of hydrogen-producing reactions.
As on earth, such fractures are estimated to reach a depth of approx. 6 kilometres whereas on Europa, water, is expected to step in as deep as 25 kilometres touching the rocky interior.
Researchers previously assumed the presence of volcanic activity and thermal vents, essential for creating a habitable environment. Without their presence, it was believed that the ocean would become too acidic for sustaining life because of oxidants.
But Vance clarified that cold rock cracks easily and because of serpentinization, an exorbitant amount of hydrogen is released which can balance the oxidants and render a ratio similar to that found on earth.