Data from the Galileo space probe suggests there's an ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa, which is Earth-like and could harbor life. The moon's icy crust is relatively thin, with cracks and vents, which would allow gases, heat and organic matter to reach water underneath. This is same situation that probably exists on Mars.
Europa?s ocean may be like the icy bodies of water on Earth, such as the Arctic Ocean, which is our smallest ocean and occupies the area around the North Pole. It?s exposed to air and heat through its cracking and melting ice.
Another similar body of water is Lake Vostok in Antarctica, which is one of the deepest-known bodies of fresh water on Earth. It?s least 30 million years old, and resembles some of the ice-covered oceans that are being discovered elsewhere in the Solar System. It may even harbor undiscovered forms of life.
Dr. Cynan Ellis-Evans says, "These new interpretations suggest that a Europan ocean and its ice cap could be dynamically interacting with the moon's surface atmosphere over short time scales that increase opportunities for life to exist and evolve." Clouds of sulphur spewing from Io, another of Jupiter's moons, could be reaching Europa. "If we're getting a sulphur source going into the lake it's an exciting possibility," he says. "It increases the opportunity for life."
One theory is that a meteorite carrying microbes could have crashed into Europa, making a hole in the ice. "Dust and meteorites carrying organic or volatile materials could have been delivered to the ocean below the surface," says Dr. Mark Burchell. NASA is considering sending a robotic probe to Europa to drill through the ice and look for life.
Another possible ET habitat is a planet orbiting around another star that has a circular orbit, meaning it could be Earth-like. The first planets that we discovered in other solar systems had elongated orbits, since these are easiest to spot. But it?s doubtful they could have life, because their seasons would be too extreme, since they are either too close or too far away from their suns. Researcher Chris McCarthy says, "Now it's seeming like there is a sizeable and well-populated class of giant planets that have circular orbits.?
This newly-discovered planet orbits a star called Tau Gruis, which is about 100 light-years away. It?s about 1.2 times the mass of Jupiter and goes around its star every 3.5 years, meaning its ?year? is more than 3 times longer than ours.
Meanwhile, some people right here on Earth are in contact?with someone, from somewhere. Find out what they?re telling us in ?Talking to Extraterrestrials? by Lissette Larkins,click here.
To learn more,click here and here.
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