1995 brought incredible news to Earth science – one of the 61 satellites of Jupiter, the largest planet in our system, Europe, was covered with a thick layer of ice, ordinary water ice! And where there is water, there is life…
At the same time, the outwardly surface of Europe is noticeably reminiscent of the Antarctic – blocks of ice, split, and then frozen again. The thickness of the ice cover of Europe is estimated at tens of kilometers – from 10 to 150, and under it … a warm ocean, because otherwise it is impossible to explain the appearance of such an ice structure: cracks, hummocks, incredibly huge ice fields.
And, of course, if there is a chance that the ocean flows under the ice, then life is possible in it. NASA recently announced that they are preparing a new mission for Jupiter, with Europe focusing on it. The start of the mission was scheduled for approximately 2025.
But now scientists are trying to predict exactly what life forms will meet in this huge warm ocean – there is twice as much water in Europe than on our planet, and the depth of the ocean is estimated at hundreds of kilometers.
The first assumption is that alien life can be represented by bacteria and microorganisms. But how did they get here?
If one adheres to one of the theories of the spread of life, the theory of panspermia, then life in the Universe “travels” on comets or asteroids. But what is the likelihood that such a “habitable” asteroid will bring life? In order not to bore the calculation, let us immediately say that it is very, very small – 0.00007%. That is, most likely, the life that will develop in Europe will be born here. Or it’s already born.
Now back to the question of what this life form can be? For Mars, the existence of bacteria that will hide under the surface is likely. But Europe or its neighbor, Enceladus, will be able to boast (we always assume, you remember?) microorganisms or even more complex structures, not only based on carbon, but also based on, for example, silicon. And while completely different – as they will develop in completely different conditions and completely different times.
If we accept that life on our planet arose about 4 billion years ago and the first billion were microscopic forms, then, by analogy, life on Europe could also appear billions of years ago, for example, three. Those. microscopic forms have long been passed, and now they can exist on a par with multicellular and even giant organisms (gravity in Europe is about 1% of the earth’s, so the likelihood of developing large life forms is quite high).
There are researchers who go much further in their assumptions – life could already have passed the evolutionary path to intelligent aquatic organisms, somewhat similar to octopuses. So far, this assumption is more on the conscience of science fiction writers. However, discounting it is still not worth it.
Now, speaking of extraterrestrial civilizations, by the way, scientists often still talk about life on the nearest planets of our system than even highly developed civilizations on earth-like exoplanets. And the point here is not only that so far there is no evidence of the existence of life on such planets. It’s just that we still cannot reach them. But to our neighbors in the solar system – we can, or we can in the near future. And, of course, first of all, we, earthlings, will be interested in planets and satellites of planets where the development of intelligent life forms is possible.
So how does humanity meet these life forms? NASA is currently developing a project with the code name Europa Multiple-Flyby Mission. It will be an interplanetary automatic station consisting of a descent probe and a base orbital ship. Such a ship should ensure the operability of the probe for at least 100 days. The total duration of the mission to Europe is 3.5 years. During this time, the zones of Jupiter’s satellite should fly at least 45 times, at different altitudes – from 2700 to 25 km.
The mission will have to check the presence of that very warm ocean under the ice surfaces, determine the composition of the ocean and … identify the possible landing sites for the descent vehicles of the following missions.
The main thing is that during these studies from the oceans of Europe, its inhabitants do not appear, which Earth spaceships may like, as was the case in the film “Europe” …
Based on materials: https://phys.org