Planetary scientists have been in search of potentially habitable worlds for years, and perhaps one of the most promising places we have yet to explore in person is Jupiter’s peculiar moon Europa.
Information amassed by both NASA’s Galileo mission and Hubble Space Telescope have offered enough evidence to suggest that Europa could be potentially habitable. In fact, the data goes as far as to suggest that a subsurface ocean could exist just underneath Europa’s icy façade.
A mission dubbed Europa Clipper just recently obtained the green light to proceed with development, and once built, NASA will send this spacecraft to the Jovian system to explore Europa more closely than we ever have before.
Europa Clipper will be equipped with cameras and spectrometers to ascertain high-resolution images of the moon’s surface features. But perhaps more importantly, it’ll also come with a dual-frequency radar that can penetrate Europa’s icy crust in search of a subsurface ocean and a magnetometer and plasma instrument that, together, can detect the moon’s magnetic activity and ocean depth and salinity.
Assuming Europa’s oceans do have the means of supporting life, scientists don’t expect anything too complex. Instead, it’s more likely that any life there would exist in the form of microbes and simple organisms due to the complexities and necessities of life.
It should be interesting to see what Europa Clipper finds when it finally arrives at Jupiter’s moon Europa. Only time will tell, however…