The Webb telescope discovered carbon dioxide in Europe

Europa is Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon, one of its 92 natural moons. It is also the sixth largest moon in the solar system. This ice ball is larger than the dwarf planet Pluto but slightly smaller than Earth’s moon. Very cold weather prevails on the surface of Europe, where the average temperature reaches 170 degrees Celsius below zero.

Astronomers believe that Europa hides a huge ocean under its icy crust. Thanks to the temperature coming from the moon’s interior, the oceans may have the right conditions for complex chemical reactions. On the other hand, analyzes of data from the Galileo and Cassini probes showed the activity of geysers on this icy moon. This was also confirmed by observations with the Hubble Space Telescope. The researchers observed the appearance and disappearance of clouds, and possibly water vapor (more on this in the text: Water vapor detected in Europe’s thin atmosphere). The geysers are so large that their plume can reach 200 km.

For this reason, Europa is one of the most promising worlds in the solar system to search for extraterrestrial life. Although this moon is much smaller than Earth, its ocean may contain twice as much water as our planet’s seas combined. Furthermore, research conducted two years ago found that Europa may still be ablaze with volcanic activity, and that the moon’s floor may be dotted with volcanoes and hydrothermal vents. This discovery fuels speculation about the possibility of microbial life on Europa, because various life forms occur around Earth’s hydrothermal vents, despite the harsh conditions. However, the subsurface ocean is covered by an ice crust several or even tens of kilometers thick, which makes ocean sampling very difficult.

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