If Europa has an oxygen atmosphere with a water mantle, is it possible that there could be life under the crust of Europa ice on the ocean where it is warmer? What could be the temperature under the ice?

enter image description here Image of all the water of Earth beside it in a sphere.

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    $\begingroup$ Why would you think that Europa has an oxygen atmosphere? $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2018 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ OP .. "is it possible that there could be life under the crust of Europa" .. simply google "Life on Europa" for zillions of articles about just this idea! Good luck! $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Nov 25, 2018 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ @AtmosphericPrisonEscape I read it somewhere but it maybe an oxygen rich ocean. $\endgroup$
    – Muze
    Nov 29, 2018 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


No, nothing on Europa could possibly be photosynthesizing as we know it. Jupiter doesn't emit light, and what it reflects from the sun is not enough, plus there's no significant amount of carbon dioxide there.

However, the first life on Earth was not plants, it was chemotrophs. These bacteria gained their energy from the heat of hydrothermal vents, and if there's life on Europa, it would almost certainly take this form.

About the temperature: Europa's heat comes from friction due to tidal forces, so it comes from within. The water temperature increases as you go down, but the pressure is crushing down there and it's unknown whether life could form under those conditions.

The tenuous oxygen atmosphere comes from charged particles hitting it's cold surface and creating vapor. It does not indicate biological processes.

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    $\begingroup$ "nothing on Europa could possibly be photosynthesizing" that's a little extreme! Science is constantly discovering things that it was sure was impossible. Europa's surface gets direct sunlight too, not just light from Jupiter. It's true that there isn't likely to be much sunlight, below the ice, but there isn't that much known about the ice. IceCube relies on transparency! but unless you can find a source to prove it, it may be premature to just state a priori there is absolutely no light for photosynthesis. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 9, 2018 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh it gets reflected light from Jupiter, . $\endgroup$
    – Muze
    Dec 9, 2018 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Muze yes I'm just saying that that's not the only source of light. I'm pretty sure it gets just as much light directly from the Sun, as it does reflected light from Jupiter, and probably more. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 9, 2018 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ I wander if life could exist without visible light but only heat or a ecosystem void of chlorophyll. $\endgroup$
    – Muze
    Dec 9, 2018 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ True, I just can't imagine it possibly becoming viable over other means. I guess I should be a bit less definitive, though. And Muze, as I was saying, some lifeforms on live off simply hydrothermal vents, without sun or other organisms. $\endgroup$ Dec 11, 2018 at 1:26

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