Sputnik Europe and Alien speculation go hand in hand. But NASA is keen to emphasize that the icy moon theme will bypass the word “aliens”.
On Monday, NASA will hold a teleconference “to present new data and images of the icy moon of Jupiter Europe, made by the Hubble Space Telescope Agency.”
If you, like all of us, were hoping that the statement might include hints of an extraterrestrial presence, then the space agency is keen to nip any rumors in the bud.
Of course, any revelations about the hypothetical past inhabitants of Europe probably would not have a basis: Hubble and all related to this topic, the mission could not yet come close enough to the mysterious moon to give direct evidence of extraterrestrial life. But, as noted in a NASA press release, the announcement is related to “the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europe,” which is key to the question of whether the moon has the potential to have life.
There is already strong evidence that Europe has a subsurface ocean hidden under a protective ice shell. Other studies show that the free surface crater is circulating in the ocean, creating ice tectonics and absorbing chemicals from the surface. The interaction between the hot rocky core could make the water salty. All of this means that hypothetical life forms could have access to these nutrients. The most interesting hypotheses about Europe include the possibility that the ocean not only can support the basic microbial life, but also has enough dissolved oxygen to support the evolution of complex intercellular forms.
In 2013, Hubble discovered the presence of a layer of water vapor surrounding the moon. This has raised hopes that geysers break through a dense crust of Europe and release ocean water into space. Europe became the second water moon in the solar system, after Saturn's satellite Enceladus poured water through an ice crust. Not only does the presence of geysers provide a powerful evidence base for the existence of a liquid ocean, ventilation to space will enable robotic missions to take samples for research.
However, the rapture was short lived. Hubble was unable to repeat the observation. Perhaps the discovery of the vapor was an error or it was a transient event, such as a collision with an asteroid.
Can they announce the discovery of a second halo of water on Monday? If so, it will increase the chances of finding life. And this will encourage NASA to send the Mission for further study, taking samples and searching for evidence.