A new research has revealed that Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, might possess chances of supporting life. Yes, scientists have revealed that there is a strong chance of the presence of tectonic plates on Jupiter’s ocean harboring moon Europa. Previously, many geological signs had indicated that plates under the thick ice sheet may be pushing beneath one another and leading towards moon’s buried ocean.
Now, as per the latest study, this pushing of plates against each other, termed as subduction, is actually happening and scientists have got evidence regarding that. Brandon Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Brown University said: “If indeed, there’s life in that ocean, subduction offers a way to supply the nutrients it would need. Such nutrients include oxidants, electron-stripping substances that are common on Europa’s surface and that could help provide an energy source for life, as said by the researchers. This indicates that if there is any chance of possibility of life on Europa then, then these tectonic plates are the life supporters as they produce the energy needed for life.
Subduction is a process in which one tectonic plate moves below another and sinks into the mantle at a convergent plate boundary. On Earth, this subduction is driven by manly the temperature differences between the cool, dense, rocky tectonic plates and the extremely hot mantle. But on Europa, a different type of subduction happens. As Europa’s surface is completely covered with ice, hence there is no chance of heat generation. But the movement of tectonic ice plate happens if they are saltier than their surroundings. Johnson and his team found this interesting evidence by analyzing computer-simulated models.
Regarding Europa’s icy and salty subduction, Johnson said that adding salt to an ice slab would be like adding little weights to it because salt is denser than ice. “So, rather than temperature, we show that differences in the salt content of the ice could enable subduction to happen on Europa,” he explained. He further said, “It’s fascinating to think that we might have plate tectonics somewhere other than Earth. Thinking from the standpoint of comparative planetology, if we can now study plate tectonics in this very different place, it might be able to help us understand how plate tectonics got started on the Earth.”
The latest finding comes after, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland got evidence about possibility of life on Pluto. These interesting discoveries indicate that watery ocean world might be present beneath the icy surfaces of those distant worlds which can act as potential reservoirs of water and life.