Being in a relentless search for life beyond Earth in the galactic space, scientists at the University of Texas in Austin found a liquid substance, hidden beneath the surface of the ice on Jupiter’s moon Europa in the amount equal to the Great Lakes of North America.
Water can be a potential environment for life, and many other such sub-glacial lakes may exist on Europa’s surface, as noted by Britney Schmidt (Britney Schmidt), doctoral student at the Institute of Geophysics of the University of Texas at Austin, in an article published in the journal "Nature".
A likelihood of life were floating on the newly discovered lake, the ice shelves that seem to crumble, providing thus a clear mechanism for transferring nutrients and energy from the surface of a vast ocean, which is believed to scientists, is under the thick layer of ice.
The scientists focused their attention on two areas in Europe - Chaos Konamara (Conamara Chaos) and Thera Macula (Thera Macula), still called territories chaos. In the images made by the spacecraft, "Galileo" is clearly a chaotic device type in both regions. They are presented in the form of piled valleys, hills and plains. Based on similar processes occurring on Earth - on ice shelves and under glaciers covering volcanoes - the researchers developed a step by step model to explain the peculiarities of the relief on Jupiter. This will help scientists to resolve a dispute about whether the icy surface of a thin or thick.
"I read a research paper and immediately thought how this important discovery," - said Robert Pappalardo (Robert Pappalardo), principal investigator of the Planetary Sciences Section of NASA, who was not involved in the analysis. "This - the only convincing model that is appropriate to a variety of observations."
Scientists have every reason to believe that their samples, based on observations of Europe with the spacecraft, "Galileo" and the Earth are correct. Although the conclusions of the scientists that the lake, located a few kilometers below the ice surface can be confirmed only by future spacecraft mission designed specifically to study the ice shell.
Such a mission is estimated by the National Research Council as the second highest priority flagship mission, and now NASA is preparing to implement the mission. On Earth, radar instruments used to take pictures of the relief features the ice-covered, will also be among the equipment for future missions to Europe.
"This new understanding of processes on Europa would not have been possible without the foundation of observations for ice sheet and ice shelf of the Earth made in the last 20 years" - said Don Blankenship (Don Blankenship), co-author of the analysis and a researcher at the Institute of Geophysics, where He leads radar studies of ice formations of the Earth.
The study, funded by the Institute of Geophysics of the University of Texas at Austin, Vetlesen Foundation and NASA, will be published in the online version of the journal "Nature".