Shreenabh Agrawal

Year: 2018-19

Shreenabh Agrawal

School: Chanda Devi Saraf School

Grade: 10

City: Nagpur, Maharashtra

"I wish to explore Europa as it holds deep secrets of life concealed beneath its thick layer of ice. Thanks to the Galileo mission which showed us how Jupiter's magnetic field was disrupted in the space around Europa. The measurement strongly implied that a special type of magnetic field is being created within Europa by a deep layer of some electrically conductive fluid beneath the surface.

As we know, the most likely scenario for an isolated planet bearing life is one with sub-glacial oceans under a thick layer of mostly water ice. Europa's ocean might have volcanic or hydrothermal activity on the seafloor, supplying nutrients that could make the ocean suitable for living things. I saw in a video that on our planet Earth, deep down in our oceans in complete darkness, in volcanically-active areas, there are hydrothermal vents called black smokers. They spew out a cloud of black material and hot water providing a constant flow of minerals from Earth's mantle. Bacteria feed on the minerals and produce organic materials, which attract other sea creatures. I hope that in the dark ocean of Europa, similar events or volcanic activity, could be the starting point and basis for complex ecosystems we can only imagine right now.

The advantage that Europa’s ocean has, is that the environment is extremely stable making it more attractive to be explored. The thick ice sheet definitely will protect it from all sorts of extinction events, and, as long as the energy from the core keeps on coming, things will stay pretty much the same. The most likely forms of life are bacteria and other microorganisms. But, more complex alien animals could feed on the smaller beings and thrive. It's not impossible that intelligent life could emerge in such an environment.

The search for life wherever it is should be a goal of every Scientist. I would be more than excited to be a reason for being able to find life of Europa if this mission is taken up. If life exists deep down this ocean constricted by an impassable wall of rock-hard ice at the top, and bedrock at the bottom, without any plants to store star energy, there would be no wood, oil, or coal. Without this energy, metals may never be forged into useful things. Our intelligent alien friends might never break through the ice. They might never realize that there is any other world outside except their very own small one. Millions of generations might live and die in these dark oceans, ignorant of the unbelievably big universe above the ice.

I also read that along Europa's many fractures is a reddish-brown material whose composition is not known, but may hold clues to the moon's potential as a habitable world. Maybe in the next decade, as Mana from NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory said, Clipper will set foot on one of these frozen worlds and try to say ‘hello.’ "

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