3
$\begingroup$

I know that Europa has liquid water, but I just don't know if there is anything else on it that could give way for life.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Water below the surface is likely a mix of compounds, so Europa's water is likely dirty, briny, possibly ammonia rich. If your question is whether a different liquid, like liquid methane could work . . . maybe make that detail more clear if that's what you mean. There's some debate on that subject but liquid water is generally seen as ideal and other liquids, probably not as good for life if they could work at all. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Feb 5 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ "anything else", meaning are other things necessary in addition to water, or meaning could water be replaced by another thing? $\endgroup$ – usernumber Feb 7 at 10:43
3
$\begingroup$

Well, Europa is one of the closest moons to Jupiter. Jupiter is an extremely massive planet (317.8 the mass of Earth) which makes strong tides on Europa and other close moons, so Europa is torn a bit which results in so-called tidal heating underwater. Through this heating, the temperature underwater makes the subsurface ocean habitable despite the Jovian system not being in the habitable zone. There are so-called hot spots underwater for which plumes erupting from under the surface are responsible. Life could thrive around those plumes.

So in other words, there is ideal temperature for life under Europa's surface due to tidal heating by Jupiter. On Ganymede and Callisto there may be a subsurface ocean too (though that's not confirmed) but they are farther away from Jupiter so there maybe isn't enough tidal heating, contrary to Europa.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ The question specifies Other than liquid water, so explaining that the water will be liquid doesn't answer the question. Wouldn't things like salts and other minerals be important? How about a source of carbon? How about a source of energy to drive reactions? (e.g. thermal gradients, chemical potentials, reactive chemical species, light...) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 4 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ Tidal heating isn't the cause of the water being liquid (though it's surely a contributing factor) but I'm talking about the temperature due to the heating which is ideal for life. It is salt water but I don't know the exact chemistry of Europa's ocean. $\endgroup$ – user30007 Feb 4 at 7:12
  • $\begingroup$ Is there any other potential source of heat beside tidal flexing that can allow liquid water to exist? At 5.2 AU there's not much sunlight and radioactivity doesn't sound like it's expected to be sufficient. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 4 at 10:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I mentioned the so-called hot spots (plumes), I will improve my answer. $\endgroup$ – user30007 Feb 4 at 11:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.