Icy Water Worlds In Our Cosmic Backyard
It seems like life on another planet somewhere else in space could actually be a possibility. For example, some of the icy moons in our solar system are known to have subsurface oceans that could prove habitable for certain lifeforms. While nothing has been uncovered yet, that doesn’t stop researchers and scientists from digging deeper.
Even on Earth, the deepest end of our oceans have lifeforms that survive on the heat and nutrients from hydrothermal vents. Another instance is scientists finding rich microbial ecosystems under the ice in Antarctica. This shows that life could also exist in extreme conditions on other planets and celestial objects.
As long as there is water, there is a good chance of survival. After all, the earth’s life source is water, and its presence reflects in the flourishing biodiversity.
Let’s look at other celestial objects that harbor water in some form, like some of the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
Jupiter’s icy moon Europa has a liquid-water ocean nearly twice the volume of Earth’s oceans. Underneath a thick layer of subsurface ice is liquid because of tidal heating, which happens because of the gravitational pull of Jupiter.
This heat and other geologic activity inside its core could offer an additional heat source for life forms. There is some merit in this theory.
Although Saturn’s moon Titan appears hospitable because of the rivers, lakes, and oceans covering the surface, they flow with liquid ethane and methane, not water. In addition, the surface temperature on Titan is about minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit, which is excessively cold for most lifeforms as we know it.
However, the source of methane on Titan is unclear. On Earth, living organisms create most of the methane supply. So researchers wonder from where Titan’s methane comes. Perhaps, the source is an underground ocean with warmer temperatures where survival of lifeforms is possible.
Enceladus and the Jovian moons Ganymede and Callisto may have subsurface liquid oceans. But in Ganymede and Callisto, the underground seas could be at least 100 kilometers under the rocks.
According to NASA, Ganymede and Callisto have fewer chances to support life than icy worlds like Enceladus as they believe the underground ocean contains a suitable environment for life. This theory came to light when the Cassini probe found water, ammonia, salts, and molecules that contain carbon – the building block for life on Earth.
The search for existing life in other worlds or an alternative for Earth drives researchers and scientists deeper into space. The discoveries and speculations are perhaps still at a nascent stage to reveal anything concrete. However, it propels human innovation and technology to the next level.
Starscapes is the first chain of astronomy observatories in India. Our mission is to promote Astro-Tourism in the country and provide more avenues for amateur astronomers. Come, visit us in Kausani, Bhimtal, Jaipur, Coorg, and Ooty and study the sky and constellations with our astronomy tours and world-class telescopes. You can also learn about advances in astrophysics and space exploration through our workshops and online discussions with experts. That’s not all. One of our exciting offerings is astrophotography sessions that help you see the universe differently through your camera lens.
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