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Europa Surface

Image of Europa Surface
GLOBAL OCEAN ON EUROPA, A HABITAT FOR LIFE? There is evidence that Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, like Earth, has an iron core, a rocky mantle, and an ocean of salty water about 100km thick! The ocean is covered with a shell of ice about 20km thick which forms the outer surface of the moon. Jupiter’s gravitational pull raises and lowers the sea beneath the ice, causing extreme tides. These in turn keep Europa’s icy surface in motion, and are probably the cause of the cracks and streaks—the long, reddish, curvilinear features seen in this image. The reddish-brown material along the streaks isn’t ice, but instead probably a mix of salty materials delivered to the surface through geological activity. The same gravitational pull that effects the ocean tides is also thought to heat Europa’s core, keeping the water from freezing entirely, and driving geological activity. With both liquid water and a stable source of energy present, it’s no wonder astrobiologists think Europa could be a habitat for extraterrestrial life! Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
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