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US News Earthquakes Might Be Feeding Alien Life on Europa

17:36  05 december  2017
17:36  05 december  2017 Source:   newsweek.com

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Updated | 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. The earth's crust is split into many distinct plates, the largest of which we know as continents. Tectonics describes the movement of these huge, deep pieces of rock, as they collide, submerge and fracture. The vast amounts of energy released by this activity causes earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Geophysicists from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, have shown

Last fall, astrobiologist Kevin Hand and I were aboard the Norwegian icebreaker Kronprins Haakon for a month, crashing through the frozen ocean off the northeast coast of Greenland. Around us, Earth looked alien —a world where the normally shifting seas were a solid mass of glowing ice. The otherworldly environment was fitting for the expedition, which had been dispatched to this frigid place to hunt for signs of life in the deep that might resemble organisms on other worlds, including the icy moons of the outer solar system.

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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.

The earth’s crust is split into many distinct plates, the largest of which we know as continents. Tectonics describes the movement of these huge, deep pieces of rock, as they collide, submerge and fracture. The vast amounts of energy released by this activity causes earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

a close up of a logo © Provided by IBT Media 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 research was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets yesterday.

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Jupiter's moon Europa may have the conditions necessary to support life , a new study claims. The interior of the planet is believed to be liquid water, and if that water has a stable source of heat, life could exist or even thrive there. Now, a new round of research from a team led by Mohit Melwani Daswani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggests that not only is there an ocean of water hiding inside Europa , but that the interior of the moon may be split into distinct layers, with the surface ice acting as a shell.

Europa is one of the few places in our solar system where life could exist. It's believed to have an ocean up to 100km deep, ten times as deep as any ocean on Earth, which could contain twice as much water as our entire planet. All the conditions for life may be met, somewhere in those dark waters. Antarctica's lakes are the best analogue we have for Europa 's hidden ocean. So if life can endure the conditions under the Antarctic ice, the odds of finding it on Europa will improve. What's more, knowing how life survives in these hidden lakes will tell scientists what to look for when they seek it on other

Europa’s tectonic features have been studied for a number of years. Previous studies have pointed towards the possibility of subduction. The moon’s icy surface is relatively smooth, suggesting it is frequently resurfaced by tectonic activity.

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Subduction seemed a likely cause because of the ridges that cut through the moon’s oceans, the authors explained. Over many thousands of years, the earth’s tectonic plates have been pushed further and further apart. Huge undersea mountain systems mark this incredible movement today. Similar submarine ridges suggest the outer shell of Europa is expanding too.

Space Jupiter Second Spot © Associated Press Space Jupiter Second Spot "We have this evidence of extension and spreading, so the question becomes where does that material go?" Brandon Johnson, lead author of the study, said in a press release. "On Earth, the answer is subduction zones. What we show is that under reasonable assumptions for conditions on Europa, subduction could be happening there as well, which is really exciting."


The team created a sophisticated computer model of Europa, based on Earth’s tectonic activity. The team’s research suggests that, below the very cold surface of the moon, there is a slightly warmer layer of ice. Depending on the concentration of salt in the two crusts, slabs of warmer ice could be forced all the way down to the moon’s vast underground ocean. Salt encourages ice to conduct heat, which is why we salt snowy roads in winter.

a close up of a gong © Provided by IBT Media

Tectonics could provide alien food

Destructive as tectonics are on earth, the movement of plates could be fundamental to life on Europa. Scientists believe that the moon’s vast underground sea is potentially filled with organisms. On Earth, subduction can draw magma from below the crust. On Europa, it could draw life-filled water up from the sea with the icy crust infusing the water with chemical food.


"If indeed there's life in that ocean, subduction offers a way to supply the nutrients it would need," Johnson said.

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