Year: 2018-19

Anusha Saini

School: The Indian School

Grade: 8

City: Isa Town, Bahrain


"Four hundred years ago, the moon which was discovered by Galileo called Europa is one of the four largest moons of the planet Jupiter. Europa has revolutionized science, for hidden beneath Europa’s icy surface is perhaps the most promising place to look for environments that are suitable for life. The space craft named on Galileo’s honor arrived in the Jupiter system sent some surprising data that provided evidence of a deep ocean which lies between Europa’s icy crusts.

Europa, the smallest but perhaps the most exciting of all the Galilean moons. It was known for decades to be very reflective, its surface was probably loaded with water-ice but even so, the shocking observation of Voyager shows a surface completely lacking craters which means something re-surfaces the moon. Even more interweaving was that the surface was covered with long cracks and dark streaks all over the moon, these and other features appear to be due to material from the interior of Europa welling up and forming the new surface, like the way lava does on earth but in this case the material is water. It is now thought that Europa has an entire ocean of water sealed up under a solid crust of ice several kilometers under the surface. The amount of water that may be locked up on Europa is staggering easily more than all the water on earth.

A lot of Europa’s material is silicon rock (like on earth and other terrestrial planets) located on a layer under the ocean, if this interacts with the ocean in the same way as earth’s ocean interacts with the sea floor this could make Europa’s water salty. In fact those long dark cracks on the surface have been found to be rich in salt and organic materials in other words carbon based compound. This is pretty exciting; we think earth’s life originated in salty ocean water. If there are carbon based molecules in Europa’s water it’s not too crazy to wonder if the same spark that occurred here on earth it may also have happened there on Europa. I believe Europa has everything it needs for life to exist. We just don’t have any direct evidence so far and I would propose to send a space probe there specifically to look for life. There it would somehow penetrate in perhaps by melting the ice; it would then collect the samples of organic materials for research, which could provide evidence about the possibility of life on Europa. It is interesting and made me curious that even though Jupiter is way out of the Sun’s habitable zone, Europa is all wet.

When we look for signs of life on planets orbiting other stars, I bet we would have to keep our minds open to types of life we’ve never considered before. The fact that there may be life on Europa amazes me even if it is just microbial life. It’s fascinating and that is why Europa is my favorite moon."

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