Callisto may contain up to a thousand times more oxygen in its atmosphere than previously thought. This feature of Jupiter’s second largest moon remains a mystery.

Jupiter’s four largest moons are among the most spectacular celestial bodies in the solar system. Io is dotted with volcanoes, there is Europa’s subterranean ocean, there is Ganymede, which is breathtaking in its size, and there is also Callisto. The latter is primarily famous for the huge number of craters on its surface, but it has recently fascinated scientists for another reason: its thick atmosphere contains surprisingly large amounts of oxygen.

Why “surprisingly”? Because prevailing theories about its origins have eliminated this possibility. Recent analyzes have shown that there are between 100 and 1,000 molecular oxygens there. Many times more than the above theories indicate. According to what was reported by CNETEven scientists aren’t sure why this is.

Scientists knew that Callisto had plenty of oxygen. But not much

Scientists knew there was a lot of oxygen in Callisto’s atmosphere. They hypothesized that this was due to the expulsion of water, hydrogen and oxygen molecules from the surface of the icy moon under the influence of Jupiter’s strong magnetosphere. However, a closer look at the numbers makes us reject this theory – the magnetism of the gas giant would not be enough to bring much oxygen into the atmosphere. The contrast is huge.

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The answer to the question of where there is so much oxygen around Callisto may come from a comprehensive examination of the moon’s surface. There are still debates about whether it was an ice giant or a rock giant. Perhaps the ESA and NASA instruments flying by Callisto (Joyce and Europa Clipper, respectively) will help solve this puzzle.

Is there life on Callisto?

The discovery of such a large amount of oxygen on an alien world immediately raises hopes that life could be discovered there. However, extremely low temperatures make it impossible to sustain life, at least as we know it. However, oxygen may be useful in the future when Earth explorers go there to extract fuel. It’s not unlikely.

Wojciech Kulik, journalist at Wirtualna Polska

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