Science 2 min read

Jupiter's Europa Has A Salty Surface That Could Support Life

skeeze / Pixabay

skeeze / Pixabay

The moon orbiting Jupiter, Europa is salty. That’s right; we’re talking about Sodium Chloride or as you may know it, table salt.

That means the chemical composition in its ocean could be similar to Earth’s, and this raises the possibility that it could harbor extraterrestrial life.

While scientists have always suspected that Europa had salt on its surface, observation suggests that they were sulfates. The sulfates were supposedly created from interaction between sulfuric acid and other compounds.

However, a closer look at the moon with the Hubble Space Telescope revealed something that looks like sodium chloride.

According to Samantha Trumbo and her colleagues at the California Institute of Technology, the icy moon may contain table salt.

The Salty Surface of Europa and Its Yellow Color

In a publication in the journal Science Advances, the Caltech scientists noted that a yellowish hue on Europa’s surface indicates the presence of NaCl. The scientists believe that the yellowish color is a result of the salt’s interaction with cosmic radiation.

Tara Regio – a “chaos region” shaped by water from the subsurface ocean – appears to emit the strongest signal. According to the researchers, this suggests that the salt is coming from within the moon.

It also raises the possibility that sodium chloride is one of the chemical composition of Europa’s ocean.

In a statement to New Scientists, Trumbo said:

“We’ve never actually measured an ocean with mainly sulfates for salts. If it’s sodium chloride instead, that means it’s more like Earth. If you licked it, it would probably taste familiar and salty.”

This is a good sign, said the scientist. It means Europa could be more habitable than we assumed.

Life on Europa?

Earth’s oceans are the only ones known to support life in the universe.

Like Europa, the subsurface ocean of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, boasts many compositions necessary for life. These include complex organic compounds as well as sodium chloride.

However, researchers have never spotted life on Enceladus, and Europa is no different.

Compared with the rest of the universe, the moon seems like an excellent place to find life. But, in the end, it’s just another distant moon with better conditions than most areas that scientists have investigated.

You won’t find any life hiding out there.

Read More: Contest Uses Crowd Sourcing to Name Jupiter’s New Moons

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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