Europa, Jupiter’s largest moon, has often been the second most desired location to explore in the universe after Mars. Now NASA has provided more analysis of the icy moon that includes the possibility of liquid lakes amidst the frozen oceans. The salt water oceans of Europa contain more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined, but the possibility of miles thick ice precluded a reasonable chance that life could be sustained there.
These new findings show that there’s a lake below the surface equal in volume to the Great Lakes in North America. If this is true then there’s a chance that a flow of nutrients could exist between the surface and the oceans below the icy shell. Of course, the data will have to be studied thoroughly before anything solid can be shown.
Water is important in astrobiology because without water there can be no life. Whatever the finding of liquid water actually means for any signs of life, no matter how simplistic, we won’t know for a long while. In order to further study what’s going on with Europa a spacecraft mission will be required to get concrete data about the inferred oceans below the ice, and how these newly found lakes factor into the dynamics of the moon.
This is just another step in the study of a fascinating little ice world that may have its own version of the secrets of life, or further show how monumentally lucky we are to have life here on Earth.