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Thursday, November 17, 2011

BBC News - Liquid lakes close to moon's skin

Liquid lakes close to moon's skin

Study author Britney Schmidt says life may exist on Europa

Scientists have found the best evidence yet for water just beneath the surface of Jupiter's icy moon, Europa.

Analysis of the moon's surface suggests plumes of warmer water well up beneath its icy shell, melting and fracturing the outer layers.

The results, published in the journal Nature, predict that small lakes exist only 3km below the crust.

Any liquid water could represent a potential habitat for life.

From models of magnetic forces, and images of its surface, scientists have long suspected that a giant ocean, roughly 160km (100 miles) deep, lies somewhere between 10-30km beneath the ice crust.

Many astrobiologists have dreamed of following in the footsteps of Arthur C Clarke's fictional character David Bowman, who, in the novel Odyssey Two, discovers aquatic life-forms in the deep Europan sea.

But punching holes through the moon's thick, icy outer layers has always seemed untenable.

The discovery of shallow liquid water by an American team makes a space mission to recover water from the moon much more plausible.

Shallow seas

The shallow lakes also means that surface waters are probaby vigorously mixing with deeper water.


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