Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by martyb on Tuesday July 24 2018, @06:07AM   Printer-friendly
from the how'd-they-get-there? dept.

Europa Lander May Not Have to Dig Deep to Find Signs of Life

If signs of life exist on Jupiter's icy moon Europa, they might not be as hard to find as scientists had thought, a new study reports. [...] NASA aims to hunt for such samples in the not-too-distant future. The agency is developing a flyby mission called Europa Clipper, which is scheduled to launch in the early 2020s. Clipper will study Europa up close during dozens of flybys, some of which might be able to zoom through the moon's suspected water-vapor plumes. And NASA is also working on a possible post-Clipper lander mission that would search for evidence of life at or near the Europan surface.

It's unclear, however, just how deep a Europa lander would need to dig to have a chance of finding anything. That's because Europa orbits within Jupiter's radiation belts and is bombarded by fast-moving charged particles, which can turn amino acids and other possible biosignatures into mush.

That's where the new study comes in. NASA scientist Tom Nordheim and his colleagues modeled Europa's radiation environment in detail, laying out just how bad things get from place to place. They then combined these results with data from laboratory experiments documenting how quickly various radiation doses carve up amino acids (a stand-in here for complex biomolecules in general).

The researchers found significant variation, with some Europan locales (equatorial regions) getting about 10 times the radiation pounding of others (middle and high latitudes). At the most benign spots, the team determined, a lander would likely have to dig just 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) or so into the ice to find recognizable amino acids. In the high-blast zones, the target depth would be on the order of 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm). (This is not to imply that potential Europan organisms would still be alive at such depths, however; doses there are high enough to cook even the hardiest Earth microbes, study team members said.)

Also at Motherboard and Gizmodo.

Preservation of potential biosignatures in the shallow subsurface of Europa (DOI: 10.1038/s41550-018-0499-8) (DX)

Biosignature hide and seek (DOI: 10.1038/s41550-018-0542-9) (DX)

Related: Science Instruments Selected for NASA's Europa Mission
NASA Releases Europa Lander Study 2016 Report
Could a Dedicated Mission to Enceladus Detect Microbial Life There?
Plate Tectonics on Europa and Subsurface Oceans in the Outer Solar System
Europa Landers Could be in Danger of Sinking Into a Porous Surface
NASA Finds Evidence of Water Plume on Europa
Complex Organic Molecules Found on Enceladus


Original Submission

 
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24 2018, @07:03AM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24 2018, @07:03AM (#711618)

    Does anyone else think it is a bit spooky that Arthur C. Clarke wrote about life existing on Europa, years ago ?

    I've suspected Clarke was either a time traveler or an extraterrestrial, for years. Of course the preceding sounds absurd,
    but then sending voice signals down a cable which carries pulses of light would have sounded absurd too, a short time ago.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24 2018, @07:45AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24 2018, @07:45AM (#711624)

    He saw clearly, as though through the eyes of a child.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24 2018, @08:26AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 24 2018, @08:26AM (#711631)

    uhm... it's the one place in the solar system (other than Earth) where we know liquid water is likely to exist (and it was the most likely place he knew of as well). there's nothing spooky about his use of Europa.

  • (Score: 2) by srobert on Tuesday July 24 2018, @08:19PM

    by srobert (4803) on Tuesday July 24 2018, @08:19PM (#711884)

    It was the first thing I thought of. Sometimes I think certain science fiction authors like Arthur C. Clarke, or Jules Verne, knew things that they should not have known.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25 2018, @05:32PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 25 2018, @05:32PM (#712500)

    No, guys. ACC knew of the ocean underneath Europan ice in the 1980s when he wrote 2010 because there had been a paper in 1980 or even earlier that speculated about it. I have the scanned jpegs of the paper lost among various files, but that was it.