Victor Nakmontanakum

Year: 2018-19

Victor Pakawis Nakmontanakum

School: Ruamrudee international School

Grade: 11

City: Bangkok

Scientists have long thought about the possibilities of life on other celestial structures aside from Earth. Through space travel, we have been able to unveil a number of possible other locations in the solar system that have the potential for fostering life. Some of these essential characteristics for life include the presence of water, carbon, and a stable atmosphere. Of all the objects in the solar system, Europa has the highest potential to contain life and therefore should be our next target for further exploration.

Abiogenesis - the study of how life arises from non-living matter - is still a rapidly developing scientific field. According to the classic 1952 Miller-Urey experiment, inorganic compounds were utilized to create amino acids that could later be combined to form foundation of DNA, which are the basic building blocks of life. Carbon and water are the vital components for allowing for these chemical reactions to occur. For carbon, it is a stable element that easily forms up to four bonds with surrounding atoms which makes it suitable for creating the kinds of complex structures needed for life. As for water, it is the universal solvent and is a useful substance for transferring chemical compounds between cells.

Both water and carbon can be found on Europa, making it an ideal candidate for further study. In fact, water happens to in a liquid form in Europa underneath the surface. Even though Europa is only one-fourth the diameter of Earth, it potentially still contains twice as much water as all of Earth’s oceans combined. Furthermore, there also may be a great deal of carbon in Europa which is derived from the comets that have crashed into its surface. This provides an abundant supply of carbon that may have also contributed to the creation of life there. From the combination of availability of water and carbon on Europa, we can safely assume that the environment existing there can potentially sustain life and should therefore be explored.

Another compelling factor to explore Europa is to study its atmosphere and the mysterious compounds which have observed on its surface. At the moment, with minimal exploration of Europa, we already know that its atmosphere contains oxygen which also could contribute to the formation of life there. In addition, we have also found evidence of water geysers shooting vapor into the atmosphere as well. Furthermore, the mysterious compounds on Europa’s fractures are likely to contain salts and sulfur compounds that have mixed with the ice water and have been possibly modified by radiation. Taken together, all of these factors potentially increase the likelihood of life having developed there.

Because of how strong the case is that life potentially exists on Europa, we should further study it and investigate its surface and underwater ocean. Since we have empirical evidence on the possibility of water, carbon, and oxygen there, it is safe to assume that Europa, compared to all other places in the solar system, has the highest potential to contain life.

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