Home Science & Space Europa has sufficient oxygen to assist 1,000,000 individuals

Europa has sufficient oxygen to assist 1,000,000 individuals

Europa has sufficient oxygen to assist 1,000,000 individuals


Oxygen on Europa: Tan and white moon-like body in space with many long cracks and lines on its surface.
View bigger. | NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this view of Europa throughout its shut flyby on September 29, 2022. A brand new evaluation of knowledge from Juno exhibits Europa generates 1,000 tons of oxygen each 24 hours. Whereas this is sufficient to enable 1 million individuals to breathe for 1 day, it’s nonetheless much less oxygen than scientists beforehand thought existed on the moon. Picture through NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ SwRI/ MSSS/ Kevin M. Gill (CC BY 3.0).
  • A brand new research utilizing information from NASA’s Juno mission reveals Jupiter’s moon Europa generates roughly 1,000 tons of oxygen each 24 hours.
  • That a lot oxygen is enough for 1,000,000 individuals to breathe day by day, although it’s nonetheless much less oxygen than scientists thought was on Europa.
  • The upcoming Europa Clipper mission, launching this yr, will arrive at Jupiter in 2030 and use its 9 scientific devices to review the moon’s habitability.

1,000 tons of oxygen each 24 hours

Europa is an ice-covered ocean moon of Jupiter. Ionized (charged) particles from Jupiter influence the moon’s icy floor, splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. However precisely how a lot oxygen is in Europa’s skinny environment has been a matter of debate. On March 4, 2024, a brand new research from a world workforce of scientists with NASA’s Juno mission mentioned they’ve decided the speed of oxygen manufacturing on Europa to be about 1,000 tons each 24 hours. That’s sufficient oxygen for 1,000,000 individuals to breathe daily, but nonetheless lower than earlier research had estimated. The end result additionally means much less oxygen might make its manner into the ocean under the floor, probably affecting habitability.

The researchers printed their peer-reviewed leads to Nature Astronomy on March 4, 2024.

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Europa’s skinny environment

Europa is the smallest Galilean moon, in regards to the dimension of our personal moon, however it does have an environment … type of. It’s extraordinarily skinny and tenuous, and scientists typically confer with it as an exosphere. The thinnest, outermost a part of Earth’s environment can also be referred to as the exosphere. On Europa, it’s primarily oxygen with traces of water vapor and hydrogen. In contrast to Earth, nevertheless, the oxygen isn’t produced principally by crops on the floor. It’s Jupiter’s ionized (charged) particles hitting the desolate, icy floor that creates oxygen. As lead writer Jamey Szalay from Princeton College in New Jersey defined it:

Europa is like an ice ball slowly dropping its water in a flowing stream. Besides, on this case, the stream is a fluid of ionized particles swept round Jupiter by its extraordinary magnetic discipline. When these ionized particles influence Europa, they break up the water-ice molecule by molecule on the floor to supply hydrogen and oxygen. In a manner, the complete ice shell is being repeatedly eroded by waves of charged particles washing up upon it.

Oxygen estimates

So, how a lot oxygen do these impacts generate? Earlier estimates ranged from a number of kilos to over 2,000 kilos per second (over 1,000 kilograms per second). However the brand new evaluation of knowledge from Juno suggests the manufacturing fee of oxygen on Europa is towards the decrease finish: about 26 kilos per second (12 kilograms per second), or 1,000 tons each 24 hours.

The researchers derived the estimated oxygen manufacturing utilizing information from Juno’s Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE) instrument. JADE measured the outgassing of hydrogen and oxygen from Europa’s floor because of the ionized particles hitting it. JADE recognized each the hydrogen and oxygen ions created within the bombardment course of.

Juno made the measurements when it flew inside 220 miles (354 km) of Europa on September 29, 2022, at 2:36 p.m. PDT. Szalay mentioned:

Again when NASA’S Galileo mission flew by Europa, it opened our eyes to the advanced and dynamic interplay Europa has with its setting. Juno introduced a brand new functionality to instantly measure the composition of charged particles shed from Europa’s environment, and we couldn’t wait to additional peek behind the scenes of this thrilling water world. However what we didn’t understand is that Juno’s observations would give us such a decent constraint on the quantity of oxygen produced in Europa’s icy floor.

Cutaway view of moon-like object showing ocean layer under ice, with thousands of tiny dots around it and text labels.
View bigger. | This illustration depicts how ionized (charged) particles round Jupiter influence Europa’s icy floor. The impacts cut up the water molecules, creating oxygen and hydrogen. Picture through NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ SWRI/ PU.

Implications for all times at Europa

Although Europa’s environment is skinny, it has implications for doable life in Europa’s subsurface ocean. That’s as a result of scientists assume a few of that oxygen could make its manner by means of the ice shell and into the ocean itself.

So the brand new outcomes imply there may additionally be much less oxygen within the ocean to assist life. Nevertheless, that oxygen hasn’t been instantly measured but. Subsequently, the precise quantity remains to be largely unknown. Plus, apart from crops, there are many organisms on Earth that don’t require oxygen. In reality, some are even poisoned by it.

What we do know to this point is that Europa’s ocean might be just like oceans on Earth. Salty, however possibly not too salty. There may additionally be hydrothermal vents on the ocean ground that might present warmth and vitamins. NASA’s Cassini mission discovered proof for such vents in Enceladus’ ocean.

Europa Clipper launches this yr

NASA’s Europa Clipper will launch this yr and arrive at Europa in 2030. With its 9 scientific devices, it is going to research Europa nearer than ever. That features measuring the quantity of oxygen on Europa. Scott Bolton is Juno’s principal investigator from the Southwest Analysis Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas. He mentioned:

Our means to fly near the Galilean satellites throughout our prolonged mission allowed us to start out tackling a breadth of science, together with some distinctive alternatives to contribute to the investigation of Europa’s habitability. And we’re not finished but. Extra moon flybys and the primary exploration of Jupiter’s shut ring and polar environment are but to come back.

In September 2023, scientists reported that frozen deposits of carbon dioxide on Europa’s floor probably got here from its ocean. The presence of carbon dioxide within the ocean would have optimistic implications for the potential for life.

Backside line: Scientists with NASA’s Juno mission mentioned there’s sufficient oxygen in Europa’s environment to assist 1 million individuals a day. But that’s lower than they anticipated. The discovering might have implications for doable life in Europa’s ocean.

Supply: Oxygen manufacturing from dissociation of Europa’s water-ice floor

Through NASA/JPL-Caltech

Learn extra: Did Europa’s carbon dioxide come from its ocean?

Learn extra: Europa’s icy crust rides on heat ocean currents



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