Can Jupiter’s icy moon sustain life? UH research team searches for answer

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — A University of Hawaii at Manoa planetary sciences researcher may be well on her way to answering the big question: Can Jupiter’s icy moon sustain life?

UH Manoa planetary sciences researcher Emily Costello is leading a team of researchers in Earth’s latest search for life beyond our planet.

This time that search is on Jupiter’s moon. The moon, commonly known as “Europa,” has a salty ocean that lies beneath a thick layer of ice. The surface is constantly being bombarded by radiation and debris, but researchers hope that deeper below there are chemical biosignatures that could include signs of life.

NASA hopes to fly a spacecraft called “Europa Clipper” to Jupiter’s moon in 2024. The mission will focus on surveying the moon in a series of fly-bys and collection of dust and gases.

“This work broadens our understanding of the fundamental processes on surfaces across the solar system,” said Cynthia Phillips, a Europa scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, and a co-author of the study. “If we want to understand the physical characteristics and how planets in general evolve, we need to understand the role impact gardening has in reshaping them.”

The work is published in Nature Astronomy.

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