Europa Has A Thin, Dynamic Ice Shell That Could Be Full Of Life

Credit: Pixabay

For ages, scientists have been fascinated by Europa’s deep salty ocean, which is a strong contender for life in the solar system. A massive ice cap surrounds it, making it impossible to sample. The thickness of the ice cap might be tens of kilometers. There is now mounting evidence that the outer layer of ice may not be only a barrier but rather a complex system capable of supporting life on its own.

The creation of a “dual ridge” structure by ice-penetrating radar in Greenland suggests that the ice layer of Europa may contain several water reservoirs underneath comparable surface patterns. NASA’s Operation IceBridge acquired surface profile and radar data from 2015 to 2017 to illustrate how a double crest in northwestern Greenland was formed by ice breaking around a bubble of squeezed liquid water refrigerating under the ice sheet, creating two unique peaks.

According to this research and others, Europa’s shell appears to undertake a range of hydro-geological cycles rather than acting as an inactive block of ice. Proof of water jets rising to the surface supports this theory. Habitability is supported by a changing ice covering because it allows resources from nearby celestial bodies to be exchanged with the deep ocean.

It’s the first time we’ve been fortunate to observe anything like this happen on Earth, although we’ve been researching these twin ridges for more than 20 years. In a statement, the co-authors claimed their theory for how the twin ridges arise is so intricate that they might not have dreamt of it without the counterpart on Earth.

Scientists may now use ice-penetrating sonar, one of the equipment presently proposed for satellite exploration of Europa, to swiftly discover this mechanism of double ridge creation.

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