Dark stains on Jupiter’s moon Europa could possibly be sea salts, hinting circumstances that there must be some form of life under its icy crust. Studies on the frozen ocean may need a very odd, geographically inspired rover.
NASA scientists reported on Tuesday that the strange marks on the surface of Europa are most probably sea salts that discolored due to radiation. Kevin Hand and Robert Carlson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California made use of the so called “Europa in a can” experiment to reach their conclusion. They replicated an area of Europa’s surface in a laboratory, imitating its cold temperature, pressure, and radiation exposure situations. They then exposed salt samples to this tough, radiation-battered ecosystem. Scientists said that the testers which were previously table salt turned into yellowish-brown, which has a similar dark color to the cracks of Europa’s surface.
The existence of sea salts on Europa’s surface implies that interrelating with its rock-strewn seafloor. It supports the concept that the frosty moon has the essential components to sustain life.
“We have many questions about Europa; the most important and most difficult to answer being is there life? Research like this is important because it focuses on questions we can definitively answer, like whether or not Europa is inhabitable,” said Curt Niebur, Outer Planets Program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington. “Once we have those answers, we can tackle the bigger question about life in the ocean beneath Europa’s ice shell.”