Europa, one of Jupiter’s moon, is back in the news. The icy tectonic action on the moon is leading to additional theories about the possibility of life. Similar to Earth tectonics, the moon’s icy shell has pieces that slide beneath each other. It’s another plus in the possibility of life column.
For scientists, the search for extraterrestrial life has long centered on Europa. Water has been the focus, as the moon holds more water than Earth. Granted, it’s ice cold surface isn’t exactly the beach vacation of your dreams.
A team has studied the latest images from the Galileo spacecraft. They show large chunks of ice returning to the massive ocean beneath. It represents the first instance of plate tectonics being seen on another world. See kids, science is fun.
Treating the images like a jigsaw puzzle, the researchers used the same tool geologists use on Earth to study tectonic movement. After arranging the images, the team found a piece, the size of Massachusetts, missing.
What Does Tectonics Mean for Europa?
With a surface temperature of -173 degrees Celsius, life isn’t going to be on the surface. The ocean under the ice sits around 0 degrees Celsius. With the tectonic movement, new material is deposited into the ocean, which would otherwise be cut off due to the thick case of ice.
For now, the tectonics remains a theory. But it is definitely an interesting one. If tectonic movement does occur, it is one more feature of Earth that is no longer unique to our planet.
It furthers the belief that life does exist out there, and we are just steps away from that major discovery.
The analysis can be found in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience.