Europa is an icy moon of Jupiter that is most likely to host extraterrestrial life, due to the existence of an underground ocean in which there is also hydrothermal activity. In 2022, a probe, NASA’s Europa Clipper, will launch to orbit Europa for a more in-depth study of this distant frozen world.
With a low magnification telescope or land use binoculars we can see Jupiter, the most massive planet in our solar system. It is characterized by the gaseous fringes of its atmosphere and the presence of small luminous dots that shine around the gas giant. These dots are its four main moons, namely, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Calisto, also known as the Galilean satellites.
Europa, is the smallest of the Galilean satellites and is similar in size to our Moon, and orbits its host planet, Jupiter, in three and a half Earth-days.
NASA’s Galileo mission, which explored Jupiter’s atmosphere and its main moons between 1995 and 2003, also made three flights over Europe. Thanks to the information that the probe transmitted home, it is known that Europe’s bright and icy surface has few craters. Its surface is relatively uniform, with crisscrossed red marks or stripes, cracks, and low ridges.
Europa, the icy moon of Jupiter, has an underground ocean and might house extraterrestrial life
All the information provided by the Galileo probe is still being analyzed by scientists years after the end of the mission. Measurements of Europa’s magnetic field show the presence of an ocean with hydrothermal activity beneath the frozen surface crust which might be ten kilometers thick, according to the estimates.
More important, Europa is the best candidate for housing extraterrestrial life within our solar system, a fact that stimulates new research and projects to explore this distant alien world.
NASA is already working on the development of some instruments for drilling thick ice sheets and has made it a priority to explore Europe and satisfy its curiosity about the ocean beneath the surface of this icy moon of Jupiter.
For the time being, we will have to wait until 2022 for the launch of a new space mission, the NASA’s Europa Clipper, which is planning to fly over this icy moon of Jupiter. It will investigate whether there are the right conditions for extraterrestrial life to develop and examine Europa’s surface for future missions.
Erin VanDyke lives on her family farm and has more than 35 years of hands-on experience with the use of livestock guard dogs for predator control. On their farm, Jan and her family use corgis as herding dogs and have raised Shetland sheep, Fainting goats, Morgan and Trakehner horses, and historic breeds of chickens and turkeys. Erin is also an active beekeeper.