"Impact plowing" by micrometeorites can destroy traces of possible life on the moon of Jupiter 5.5

"Impact plowing" by micrometeorites can destroy traces of possible life on the moon of Jupiter 5.5
"Impact plowing" by micrometeorites can destroy traces of possible life on the moon of Jupiter 5.5
Anonim

Constant bombardment by micrometeorites mixes Europa's crust to a depth of 30 centimeters, leading to the destruction of chemical markers of life that may exist in the subglacial ocean.

Europa is one of the largest moons of Jupiter and one of the most interesting places in the entire solar system. Under its icy surface is a whole ocean of liquid water, which from time to time is thrown out by geysers that gush from the vicinity of the South Pole. In theory, life can even exist in this ocean, and future space missions are already being prepared to search for it.

But to find possible traces of life, the devices will have to drill the ice crust of Europe. The problem is that the satellite's surface is constantly bombarded by charged cosmic particles, which are additionally accelerated by Jupiter's powerful magnetosphere. Calculations carried out several years ago showed that they are capable of sterilizing and destroying any chemical markers of life to a depth of about 20 centimeters.

However, new work by the team of Emily Costello at the University of Hawaii is making the problem even worse. Scientists have modeled the impacts of micrometeorites that continually fall on Europe, and have shown that their impacts gradually mix the upper layers of the crust to a depth of 30 centimeters. In this way, potential life markers can rise to the surface - and be destroyed by cosmic rays. Costello and her co-authors write about this in an article published in the journal Nature Astronomy, calling this process "impact gardening".

The new estimates will probably need to be taken into account by the developers from NASA, who are preparing to send the Europa Clipper probe into the Jupiter system in 2024. He will not break through the icy surface of the satellite and will conduct observations from orbit, having made several close approaches. Apparently, the chances that the rover will notice evidence of life hidden in the subglacial ocean is very small.

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