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Computer models suggest there is no life in Europa’s underground ocean

The uncertainty of science: Several different computer simulations now suggest that the underground ocean inside the Jupiter moon Europa is inert and likely harbors no existing lifeforms.

He and his colleagues constructed computer simulations of Europa’s seafloor, accounting for its gravity, the weight of the overlying ocean and the pressure of water within the seafloor itself. From the simulations, the team computed the strength of the rocks about 1 kilometer below the seafloor, or the stress required to force faults in the seafloor to slide and expose fresh rock to seawater.

Compared with the stress applied to the seafloor by Jupiter’s gravity and by the convection of material in Europa’s underlying mantle, the rocks comprising Europa’s seafloor are at least 10 times as strong, Byrne said. “The take home message is that the seafloor is likely geologically inert.”

A second computer model also suggested that the moon’s deep magna is not capable to pushing upward into that sea, further reinforcing the first model that the sea is geological inert, lacking the heat or energy required for life.

Though unconfirmed and uncertain, these results when looked at honestly make sense. Europa is a very cold world. An underground ocean might exist due to tidal forces imposed by Jupiter, but that dark and sunless ocean is also likely to be very hostile to life. Not enough energy to sustain it.

Like the water imagined to exist at poles of the Moon, we go to Europa on the hope of finding life, even if that hope is very ephermal.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • sippin_bourbon


    I will wait till we get there. Odds are against it, but as they said in the movie, Life finds a way…

  • Ray Van Dune

    Didn’t some fictional entity put it a bit more directly?

    “All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there.”

  • gbaikie

    It seems if Europa, Titan, nor Venus has life, it’s less likely there is any life out there.
    But it might be due, to our inability to find any kind of life, there could be different life on Earth, that we aren’t aware of.

  • Dick Eagleson

    With or without life, a vast reservoir of water in the outer solar system on a body with less surface gravity than the Moon and no consequential atmosphere will, someday, prove invaluable to human settlement efforts beyond Mars.

  • Paul Hosea

    These kind of things are truly unknowable until we get there. My guess is we know a lot less than we claim as to how life formed on Earth. People who look into it with modern methods. generally assume there must NOT have been some sort of entity was involved. The few exceptions tend to assume that there WAS such and entity, often one that is in full agreement with their religious tradition. Real independent inquiry is strongly discouraged. You risk excommunication from one’s profession or even one’s church if you do that.

    Computer modeling is a useful technique, but it is unusually suspect to unconscious biases. It is easy to fool oneself into making the model say something acceptable to you. I’ve caught myself doing this even when creating spreadsheets to make personal financial decisions. Avoiding bias must be much harder when modeling things this complex.

  • Edward

    Paul Hosea wrote: “These kind of things are truly unknowable until we get there. My guess is we know a lot less than we claim as to how life formed on Earth.

    There is a problem of overconfidence in scientific findings. Peer review is supposed to help find these instances, but biases once again rear their ugly heads. Correlation is not causation, but biases tend to make us believe they can be.

    Computer modeling is a useful technique, but …” only if it can be confirmed to properly predict all as-yet unseen data. Even then, it may be used in an improper way, in an attempt to predict something that the model was not designed to predict. Improperly tested models can give us complete garbage that is then treated as gospel. Garbage in — gospel out.

  • David Ross

    Dick Eagleson: that water can be extracted much more easily from Ceres and other icy bodies. Or from Callisto. Europa is irradiated and further down Jupiter’s well.

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