Europa’s in the news

The Chances of Finding Alien Life on Jupiter’s Moon Europa Just Shot Way Up, it says here. Very eye-catching! What’s the article about?

Forget Mars—Jupiter’s moon Europa is one of the most promising worlds in the solar system to look for alien life, in large part because it boasts a huge liquid ocean sitting below a sheet of ice.

We all knew that, of course. Especially those of us who have read A Darkling Sea by James Cambias, which as you know has some of the coolest aliens in all of science fiction. On the planet Ilmatar, under a roof of ice a kilometer thick, a team of deep-sea diving scientists investigates the blind alien race that lives below. … The Ilmatarians are by far the neatest thing about this book, which is readable, but better as a showcase for aliens in a Europa-like environment than for the plot or human characters.


A new study published in Nature Communications on Tuesday reveals that the icy shell itself might be much more porous than previously thought. In fact, the ice might be home to multiple pockets of water that could be habitable to life as well.Culberg cautioned that we won’t be able to confirm any of this until we’ve had a chance to actually study Europa directly. That will likely occur in the next decade: NASA is planning to launch an orbiting probe called Europa Clipper in October 2024, and it should arrive at the Jovian moon in April 2030.

2030! Well, I should be around to see that, with any reasonable luck. I’ll be hoping for REAL life, eg the sort of ecosystem envisioned by A Darkling Sea. Bacteria or other such critters would be merely mildly interesting rather than seriously neat.

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2 thoughts on “Europa’s in the news”

  1. Rachel–
    I would settle for Europan archaea. Any life at all is a huge deal, the biggest discovery since Einstein.

  2. I’m with Pete Mack here, any type of life would be huge.

    At the moment we think water may be required for life, at least our kind/s, to evolve. But we’re still running on a sample size of 1, and can’t really estimate the likelihood of life happening, even given the “right” temperature range and other condition.

    If the second place we find liquid water at, also has evolved life, well, while it’s technically not enough to really run statistics, it would be a major indication that life happening with those basic conditions may actually be fairly likely. Which means a good chance it’s happening a lot more.

    But even without that part, just seeing what happened the same, and what happened differently, would be a lot. DNA with the same nucleotides would mean a lot. But even just single cell organism going differently would be a lot more.

    That said, I’m not really holding my breath. “Might” have liquid water is very very far from having liquid water. And there’s certainly no signs of life so far except the entirely and purely speculative ones.

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