Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thar's Oxygen in That There Moon! - Maybe

"Jupiter Moon's Ice-Covered Ocean Is Rich in Oxygen" (May 27, 2010)

"There may be enough oxygen in the waters of Jupiter's moon Europa to support millions of tons worth of fish, according to a new study. And while nobody is suggesting there might actually be fish on Europa, this finding suggests the Jovian satellite could be capable of supporting the kinds of life familiar to us here on Earth, if only in microbial form.

"Europa, which is roughly the size of Earth's moon, is enveloped by a global ocean about 100 miles deep (160 km), with an icy crust that may be only a few miles thick. From what we know of Earth, where there is water, there is a chance at life, so for many years scientists have speculated that this Jovian moon could support extraterrestrials.

"As we learned more about Jupiter's effect on its moons, the possibility for life on Europa grew even more likely. Studies showed the moon could have enough oxygen to support the kind of life we are most familiar with on Earth...."

The key word here is "could." One process that could oxygenate Europa is radiation from Jupiter splitting Europa's icy surface into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Scientists crunched the numbers - and came up with the possibility that Europa's ocean could have high an oxygen content as Earth's. The Jovian moon has more water than Earth to begin with - Europan fish are - barely - possible.

Not likely, though: at all. For starters, if Europa had this much oxygen to begin with - life probably couldn't have gotten started. We need oxygen to survive. But I've written about that before.

There's a pretty good discussion of Europa in that article. If you're interested in that sort of thing
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