Monday, August 2, 2021

‘Racing Certainty’ There’s Life on Europa, Says Leading UK Space Scientist

It’s “almost a racing certainty” there’s alien life on Jupiter’s moon Europa — and Mars could be hiding primitive microorganisms, too. That’s the view of leading British space scientist Professor Monica Grady, who says the notion of undiscovered life in our galaxy isn’t nearly as far-fetched as we might expect.

Professor Grady, a Professor of Planetary and Space Science, says the frigid seas beneath Europa’s ice sheets could harbor “octopus”-like creatures. Meanwhile, the deep caverns and caves found on Mars may also hide subterranean life-forms — as they offer shelter from intense solar radiation while also potentially boosting remnants of ice. Professor Grady was speaking at Liverpool Hope University, where she’s just been installed as Chancellor, and revealed:

Professor Grady isn’t the first to pinpoint Europa as a potential source of extraterrestrial life. And the moon — located more than 390 million miles from Earth — has long been the subject of science fiction, too. Europa, one of Jupiter’s 79 known moons, is covered by a layer of ice up to 15 miles deep — and there’s likely liquid water beneath where life could dwell. The ice acts as a protective barrier against both solar radiation and asteroid impact.

On the left is a view of Europa taken from 2.9 million kilometers (1.8 million miles) away on March 2, 1979 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. Next is a color image of Europa taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft during its close encounter on July 9, 1979. On the right is a view of Europa made from images taken by the Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. (Image: NASA/JPL)
On the left is a view of Europa taken from 2.9 million kilometers (1.8 million miles) away on March 2, 1979, by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. Next is a color image of Europa taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft during its close encounter on July 9, 1979. On the right is a view of Europa made from images taken by the Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. (Image: NASA / JPL)

Meanwhile, the prospect of hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor — as well as sodium chloride in Europa’s salty water—also boosts the prospects of life. As for what’s beyond the Milky Way, Professor Grady says the environmental conditions that led to life on Earth are “highly likely” to be replicated elsewhere. The expert, a resident at the Open University who’s also worked with the European Space Agency (ESA), adds:

During the summer this year, at least three separate missions will be launched to Mars. The ExoMars 2020, which launches in July, is a joint project from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. The Mars 2020 mission is NASA’s new rover, planned to touch-down on the Red Planet in February 2021. Meanwhile, the Hope Mars Mission is a planned space exploration probe, funded by the United Arab Emirates, which is set to launch in the summer.

And Professor Grady says it’s not just Martian “viruses” being brought back to Earth that are a concern, the prospect of us contaminating the planet with our own bugs is also paramount. Prof. Grady — a member of the Euro-Cares project designed to curate samples returned from missions to asteroids, Mars, the Moon, and comets — reveals:

Meanwhile, Professor Grady says that by looking at the bigger, inter-planetary picture, Earth’s own ecological situation is brought into sharp focus, adding:

Professor Grady has also been looking at the bigger picture by focusing on the minutiae — a single grain of the rock, the size of a full stop. This speck was brought to Earth in 2010 by the Japanese “Hayabusa’ mission — where a robotic spacecraft was sent to the near-Earth asteroid ‘25143 Itokawa’ in order to collect a sample. By analyzing this ‘world in a grain of sand,'” she hopes to unlock mysteries of the universe. She added:

Provided by: Liverpool Hope University [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.
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