Science

Europa may have hidden liquid ocean to sustain life, new study reveals

Europa may have hidden liquid ocean to sustain life, new study reveals

Jupiter is a giant hot gaseous planet situated after the asteroid belt at a distance of 365 million miles when it is the closest w.r.t Earth and 601 million miles when it is the farthest. It was just a few years back when Jupiter’s moon Europa was reported as a potential planet that can hose life. Europa headlined on the internet in 2016 after scientists were able to see water vapor like plumes erupting from its crust. But, as a part of new research at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Europa might have liquid water flowing beneath its 10-kilometer deep ice crust. The researchers used data extracted the data from an analogous location on Earth and found that life is sustainable in even the harsh environment that Europa offers as it has a huge liquid ocean under its crust.

Douglas Galante is the part of the research team that stretched towards the Mponeng Gold Mine in Johannesburg, South Africa in such as evidence. During the research, they found that bacterium Candidatus Desulforudis Audaxviator survives inside the mine at the depth of 2.8 km without any sunlight. It uses the method of water radiolysis where the water molecules are dissociated with the help of ionizing radiation. The analysis of the mine highlighted the cracks that run throughout the mine filled with cracks that supply water containing radioactive uranium which in turns, helps the bacterium to break down water molecules and consume the free radicals produced.

Once the free radicals are generated, these subatomic molecules attack rocks in the surrounding which produces sulfate. This is what these bacteria utilize to synthesize energy and store it without even interacting with the sunlight. One of a kind findings confirmed that it was the very first time when scientists were able to explore a living organism using nuclear energy to survive directly. Galante stated that this ecosystem is analogous to that of Europa’s ocean which has a great amount of thermal energy and absolute zero temperature.

Europa is one of the 62 moons that revolve around the giant Jupiter. It is because of Jupiter’s colossal gravitational pull and tidal force that binds Europa and makes its orbit elliptical in its shape. At any given point, Europa is close to Jupiter or far from the planet which has deformed the geometry of the planet. Researchers believe that this alternating and fluctuation relaxation and contraction is the reason why Europa might host ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust. As per the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, the biological activity on Earth take places due to differences in concentrations of ions, electrons, molecules which causes the flow of fundamental molecules in either direction. Scientists have found a way out to create a chemical imbalance in Europa which can be initiated to commence chain reactions between chemicals.

There is a catch. There is not much empirical data available with the scientists that can be taken into consideration while assuming such events on the icy moon. Thus, radioactivity becomes the prime subject of the research. It was after Big Bang when the planets, sun, and other celestial bodies came into existence and that is what have shared radioactive materials that spread across the universe as result of massive supernova explosions, etc. Scientists are studying the radioactive materials like potassium, thorium, and uranium and their effects in producing energy, releasing that combined causes water radiolysis. Another important ingredient to sustain life on Europa is pyrite which is why scientists have claimed that the traces of pyrite must be found in Europa where the probability of finding this element is quite good.

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