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Disappointment for possibility of existence as Nasa reports lower oxygen levels on Jupiter's moon than previously believed.
Science

Disappointment for possibility of existence as Nasa reports lower oxygen levels on Jupiter’s moon than previously believed.

Recent studies indicate that there is a lower amount of oxygen on the frozen crust of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, than was previously believed. This finding has potential implications for potential life forms that may be existing in the ocean beneath Europa’s surface.

“Despite low levels of oxygen, microorganisms are thought to be actively present in the ocean located miles below the icy surface of Europa. Regarding other potential elements, NASA scientist Kevin Hand, who was not part of the research team, stated, ‘Who knows.'”

According to Hand, further verification is necessary for these results, which contradict previous telescope studies that detected a greater amount of oxygen in Europa’s frozen ice.

The new study is based on data collected by Nasa’s Juno spacecraft during a particularly close flyby of Europa in 2022 – a distance of just 219 miles (353km).

A team of researchers from the United States and Europe determined that Europa’s surface produces between 13 and 39 pounds (6 and 18 kilograms) of oxygen every second.

Earlier approximations had a broader range, potentially producing up to 2,245 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of oxygen per second. Therefore, based on the recent findings, the researchers stated that “unless Europa had a significantly higher oxygen production in the past,” the new measurements offer a narrower scope to suggest its potential habitability.

Europa’s protective layer of frozen water is bombarded with radiation from Jupiter, resulting in the creation of oxygen and hydrogen.

James Szalay, a lead researcher from Princeton University, stated that Juno’s flyby marked the first instance that a spacecraft had directly sampled the atmosphere of Europa. In an email, he expressed excitement about the opportunity to gain insight into the planet’s intricate surroundings.

Szalay stated that although the range was narrower than expected, there is still much to be learned.

The amount of oxygen that is released into the moon’s atmosphere, stored in the ice, and potentially reaching the underground ocean is currently unidentified.

In the coming autumn, the Nasa intends to send the Europa Clipper into space. This spacecraft will conduct numerous close flybys of Europa, which is almost as big as our own moon, while orbiting the massive gas planet.

Source: theguardian.com