Is There Life On Europa?

There is currently no evidence of life on Europa but the existence of Europa's sub-surface oceans and complex chemistry makes Europa a great candidate for life.
Is There Life On Europa?

There is currently no evidence of life on Europa but the existence of Europa's sub-surface oceans and complex chemistry makes Europa a great candidate for life.

Scientists looked closer at the Jovian moon Europa because they found evidence suggesting a salty ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell. Determining how well materials could be exchanged between Europa's icy shell, ocean, and Europa's rocky interior and whether there are hydrothermal vents or volcanoes on the Jovian moon Europa would help researchers further explore Europa's potential for containing life. Knowing Europa's ice shell thickness and ocean properties will help scientists determine if Europa is habitable for microbes (or, really, for anything more extensive). In Greenland, water flows down an underground pocket from a surface lake, but on the Jovian moon, scientists suspect that liquid water is forced to the surface by cracks in the icy shell from an underlying ocean.

What is The Temperature on Europa?

The Temperature on Europa can range from as high as approximately 140 Kelvin (about -210 degrees Fahrenheit) to as low as approximately 50 Kelvin (-370 degrees Fahrenheit).

What Does Europa Look Like?

Europa is slightly smaller than Earth's Moon and Europa is primarily made of silicate rock and has a water-ice crust and probably an iron–nickel core. Research suggests that Europa most likely has an acidic sub-surface ocean. Europa has a very thin atmosphere, composed primarily of oxygen.

Combining messages relayed to Earth by NASA's Galileo mission in the 1990s with observations by ground-based telescopes on Earth, experts are reasonably certain its blanket of ice is made from water ice, and beneath the ice is a salty, liquid ocean surrounding Jupiter's moon Europa 40 to 100 miles deep. From ground-based telescopes, scientists know Europa's surface is primarily made up of water ice. Scientists have found compelling evidence that underneath its ice crust is an ocean of liquid water or slushy ice. Scientists are nearly sure there is a salty ocean underneath the frozen surface, and it contains more water than all the Earth's oceans combined. If the vast ice sheets crisscrossing the Jovian moons are formed similarly to the ones found on Greenland, pockets of below-surface water could be everywhere in the body, helping circulate chemicals essential for life from the icy shell to the salty ocean that lies just below.

How Could Life Form In Europa's Oceans?

The radiation blasted to Europa from Jupiter may create fuel for life in an ocean below the surface. The radiation splits apart water molecules (H2O, made of oxygen and hydrogen) in Europa's extremely tenuous atmosphere.

How Much Radiation Does Europa Get?

Europa receives 5.4 Sv (540 rem) of radiation per day, which is approximately 1,800 times the average annual dose experienced by a human on Earth at sea level.

What Molecules Are On Europa?

The molecules presents on Europa include carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. These molecules are caused by the radiation from Jupiter which splits apart water and ice molecules.

If connected to the global ocean of water, like Saturn's moon Enceladus is thought to be, this would offer valuable clues about conditions within Europas's oceans and perhaps even evidence for life itself. Scientists may learn more about the global ocean of water through modeling, but getting hard evidence would require sending a mission back there. A passing spacecraft could even be able to sample the Europan ocean without landing on the surface since there is the possibility that the Europan ocean could leak into space. In the longer term, researchers are looking at ways to take a robot past the icy shells of Europa and the moon Enceladus from Saturn and into their potentially life-sustaining oceans.

Scientists got their best indication of whether there could be a Europan ocean two decades ago when this first NASA spacecraft detected magnetic connections between its beloved moon and Jupiter, which a salty, global sea could easily explain.

Send Us Some Stars ✨

Our content relies on support from our readers.

Donate To Us 💛

Test Your Knowledge By Playing A Related Quiz:

Quiz | Exoplanets and The Goldilocks Zone

14 Question Quiz to test your knowledge on exoplanets and the goldilocks zone.


Read More About Europa:

Can Europa be Terraformed?
Based on what we know about Europa, humans could live there if they were willing to modify how they use resources on the planet.
Can Europa sustain human life?
The chances for life there were always iffy, as a global ocean lay under a few miles of ice, which separated it from oxygen being produced on the surface.

Read About The Possibility of Life On Other Planets:

Is There Life on WASP-39b?
While we have not found life on Kepler 452b, Kepler 452b is a candidate for alien life because of its apparent abundance of water in its atmosphere.
Is There Life on Kepler 452b?
While we have not found life on Kepler 452b, Kepler 452b is a great candidate for alien life because it shares many similarities with Earth.
Is There Life On Proxima B?
Proxima B is a great candidate for containing life due to its similar mass to the Earth, the possibility of liquid water, and its proximity to its host star, Proxima Centauri.
Is There Life In TRAPPIST-1?
The TRAPPIST-1 system is a great candidate for containing alien life due to its respective planets, their chemistry, proximity to the parent star, and early solar formation.
Is There Life On Neptune?
No, there is no evidence supporting the possibility of life on Neptune due to extreme temperatures, atmospheric activities, and distance from the Sun.
Is There Life On Saturn?
No, life as we know it cannot exist on Saturn due to extreme temperatures, pressures, and lack of a surface. Saturn’s moons have been found to be highly hospitable for life to exist.
Is There Life on Mercury?
No, life as we know it would not be able to survive on Mercury due to extreme temperature fluctuations, proximity to the Sun, and being void of an atmosphere.
Is There Life on Io?
It is highly unlikely that life as we know it could survive on Io due to extreme atmospheric and surface activities.
Is There Life On Ganymede?
It is possible for certain types of life to exist on Ganymede due to subsurface oceans, but we do not have evidence of life at this time.
Is There Life On Callisto?
Callisto is on the list of possible places where life could exist in our solar system beyond Earth due to its subsurface oceans.
Is There Life on Titan?
There is currently no evidence of life on Titan but its complex chemistry and unique environments make Titan a great candidate for life.
Is There Life On Enceladus?
There is currently no evidence of life on Enceladus but its complex chemistry and subsurface oceans make Enceladus a great candidate for life.
Is There Life on Venus?
Scientists may have eliminated the possibility of extraterrestrial life on Venus due to extreme temperatures, volcanic activity, and acidic rain.
Is There Life on Jupiter?
No, life as we know it cannot survive on Jupiter due to its distance from the Sun, unsuitable atmosphere, and frigid temperatures.

Enjoy Universe? ✨

Join the Universe community - one of the most active communities for scientists, space enthusiasts, and biohackers! As a free member, you get access to discussion boards, astronomy quiz of the day, universe launch updates, commenting, knowledge quizzes, and more.

Join The Community for Free 💫

Subscribe to Josh Habka newsletter and stay updated.

Don't miss anything. Get all the latest posts delivered straight to your inbox. It's free!
Great! Check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription.
Error! Please enter a valid email address!
View this profile on Instagram

Josh Habka ✦ Astronomy and Space (@realjoshuniverse) • Instagram photos and videos