Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Europa: To a Watery Moon

Europa in the News Jupter's moon Europa has interested astronomers since Galileo found it 401 years ago. It has a surface of water ice, with a liquid water ocean, but that ocean was thought to lie at least 10km under the crust, too deep for a future mission to sample. But more sophisticated modeling, informed by studying ice sheets on Earth, indicates at least some bodies of liquid only 3km down: shallow enough to drill to. Among the possible discoveries: life, at least on a one-celled scale. Now, will the Europa missions proposed in the US and elsewhere for the 2020s get funded? That's as big a mystery as... well, whether there is life on Europa.

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