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Plate Tectonics on Europa and Subsurface Oceans in the Outer Solar System

Accepted submission by takyon at 2017-12-05 17:44:50
Science

Plate tectonics on Jupiter's moon Europa [wikipedia.org] could make finding life there more likely [newsweek.com]:

Earthquakes could be fueling life on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. Scientists have shown that huge chunks of the moon's ice crust could be sinking others, infusing its underground ocean with chemical food. [...] Geophysicists from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, have shown that tectonic activity is also feasible within Europa's ice shell. They used a computer simulation to map subduction—where one giant slab of ice is forced under another.

The gravitational pull of moons could extend the unfrozen lifetime of subsurface oceans [nasa.gov] on some objects, such as Pluto and Charon:

Heat generated by the gravitational pull of moons formed from massive collisions could extend the lifetimes of liquid water oceans beneath the surface of large icy worlds in our outer solar system, according to new NASA research. This greatly expands the number of locations where extraterrestrial life might be found, since liquid water is necessary to support known forms of life and astronomers estimate there are dozens of these worlds.

"These objects need to be considered as potential reservoirs of water and life," said Prabal Saxena of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of the research published in Icarus [sciencedirect.com] [DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2017.11.023] [DX [doi.org]] November 24. "If our study is correct, we now may have more places in our solar system that possess some of the critical elements for extraterrestrial life."

List of largest lakes and seas in the Solar System [wikipedia.org].

Also at Brown University [eurekalert.org] (EurekAlert).

Porosity and salt content determine if subduction can occur in Europa's ice shell [wiley.com] (open, DOI: 10.1002/2017JE005370) (DX [doi.org])


Original Submission