Life on Europa: Still there, or has it already left?

Discussion in 'Science' started by Fortigurn, Oct 19, 2009.

  1. Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    Source. So what do you think? Does Europa have life? Did it previously have life? Has life already come and left Europa? Three billion kilograms of macrofauna is plenty of material for the evolution of intelligent life analogous to ourselves.
     
  2. samos

    samos Member

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    Interesting stuff - can't say either way. Our planet and atmosphere was just the right marinade for life to exist - surely a chef's special exists out there and elsewhere.
     
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    Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    Given the very broad parameters for life, and the fact that the universe is liberally stuffed with all the right ingredients, all over the place, it's very likely that life developed on Europa (though different to our own). It may even still be there, or it may already have left.
     
  4. samos

    samos Member

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    Absolutely. Through sheer probability alone, there must be. ('can't say either way' was in reference to whether it's there or left).

    Whether we'd recognise it at first is another question. The parameters for intelligent beings such as ourselves however, well, I would say are more marginal.
     
  5. tornado33

    tornado33 Member

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    I reckon Europa has the BEST chance of life anywhere in the solar system other then Earth. The discovery of Black Smokers deep in our oceans, supporting entire ecosystems without any light from above was an instant revelation to the possibility of life on Europa.

    The icy moon is subject to tidal friction due to its close in orbit of Jupiter. Not as much as volcanic Io, but enough that there could well be lots of volcanic vents that not only supply heat to keep a layer of liquid water under the ice, but perhaps to support Europan ecosystems around those vents.

    I really hope the Europa Jupiter System Mission happens, and we can get a lander on Europa with a melt probe and hydrobot to explore under the ice.

    Imagine seeing images beamed back to Earth of a black smoker vent on the alien sea floor with all these exotic strange life forms around it. It would be one of the greatest discoveries since the invention of the wheel, or the ability to make fire.
     
  6. hlokk

    hlokk Member

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    The chance of life having left would be incredibly remote. It would require them not only developing technology (remote consider the environment) and doing it faster than us (again, remote) and also not leaving any evidence anywhere (you think they would have at least visited earth).

    Given our recent understandings of just how diverse life on earth is in environments that were previously thought to be too hostile, the enviroment on Europa is actually pretty good, and quite possibly conductive to life. I doubt you're going to find the size of fauna we get on earth due to energy sources though. Earth has vibrant life on black smokers, and a similar type of life could support itself deep in the oceans of Europa (I wouldnt be entirely surprised if several earth organisms could live there if we seeded them). For the complex life of our black smokers, I think a lot of the macrofauna developed elsewhere, then adapted to life on the black smokers, rather than a lot of life evolving at the smokers themselves. On Europa, if life forms near vents on the 'sea-floor' then its probably going to be simple bacteria type organisms. Given enough time, more complex, but still simple creatures could evolve to feed on these bacteria, but I dont think you'd see much more complexity or size than say an amphipod. It would still be an absolutely incredible discovery though. I really wish we they would approve more research on Europa :(. Better candidate than Mars for current life at least IMO.

    The reason for not much life comes down to energy sources. On earth, you have the sun which provides a lot of energy, which produces algae/phytoplankton, on which small arthropods and other zooplankton, which provides a large source of food for nearly all the larger fauna (directly or indirectly). So, on (or is that in) Europa, you need a large source of base energy to support large quantities of low order food. Even if the base food source existed (perhaps bacterioplankton), I'm just not sure where this energy would come from. There would be a fair bit of energy in terms of tidal forces and all that, but not enough to produce huge quantities of basic life required for very high level life. You dont need sunlight, but you still need a lot of energy.
    I think its more likely you would see scattered communities, perhaps ones that thrive quite well, but within a limited area near heat or energy sources. Theres probably not a lot floating around (as I'm not sure where they would get their energy from)
     
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    Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    They may have used methods different to ours. Perhaps they were giant bags of gas and just floated away. Remember Sagan's proposed 'gas cows' of Jupiter?

    Isn't there quite a lot of energy in stuff like methane and hydrogen?
     
  8. hlokk

    hlokk Member

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    If they drifted off into space, then they probably died. Where are they going to get their energy from? Thats assuming they leave non-technologically (not sure if thats what you are suggesting or not). Probably not impossible for organisms to live in space, but unlikely such organisms would evolve on Europa.



    Unless theres some energy source replacing it, then its a finite resource. Due to entropy and all that, for large growth on a longterm basis, you need an external energy source (with sufficient usable energy).
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2009
  9. Nvidiot

    Nvidiot Member

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    Like oh, say, a large gaseous planet which gives off more heat from tidal forces than it receives from the sun it orbits? Musta had one of those around here somewhere...
     
  10. hlokk

    hlokk Member

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    Ok, how do your propose that energy gets into the biosphere? (or is made chemically available).
     
  11. pyriX

    pyriX Member

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    Wouldn't surprise me if there was life on Europa.

    It would surprise me if there was intelligent life however - or at least something that we would recognise as intelligent life - there are fundamentals of what we define as 'civilisation' that would have been detectable, such as radio waves, microwaves, radiation, light pollution etc.

    I'm not saying that couldn't be some sort of super-intelligent philisophical space-cow thing with no need for the trappings of what we term 'civilisation.' But if there was, we'd probably just kill it and eat it before we even realised what it was.

    Speaking of plant and animal life, would that not make Europa a better candidate for colonisation than the likes of mars? The distance is an issue, sure, but further out in the solar system would serve as a better service platform for telescopes further out in the solar system, and further away from the light pollution of the sun.
     
  12. Veefy

    Veefy Member

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    While the presence of water would be useful, the radiation is a big issue for colonisation.

    Quote from wikipedia:
    "Europa is in the middle of a huge radiation belt around Jupiter, and a human would die from the radiation within ten minutes on the surface. This would require the building of massive radiation deflectors, which is currently impractical."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraforming
     
  13. Danske

    Danske Member

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    So technically (and hypothetically speaking) if there was life on Europa, how would the massive amount of radiation contribute to this? Could it essentially be the missing energy link Hlokk is talking about? Some sort of Radiation feeding bacteria MUTANT FISH!
     
  14. hlokk

    hlokk Member

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    While it might well be possible some organisms use the radiation, it would be unlikely to be enough to make Europa be teeming with life. You could get small colonies, or a thin film, but theres unlikely to be large fauna swimming around the sea with such an energy source.

    If it was direct radiation, organisms may be able to use it as an energy source, its not all that outlandish (seeing as some earth organisms can get energy from certain types of non-visible radiation). Most of the radioactive stuff is going to be tied up in the core, and as such, its energy output is just going to be low level warmth. I'm not sure how organisms would extract useable energy from this though (at least in large scales). Low level warmth is typically a pretty useless energy source for doing useable work. Also, Europa is kept reasonably warm (not at the surface though) primarily due to tidal activity from Jupiter rather than radioactive decay.



    Not for humans. It might be more conductive to life than Mars, but its not more conductive to human life.

    As for telescopes, the space around earth is fine and placing a telescope further out in the solar system doesnt really offer any advantages. Sunlight is highly directional, as long as your telescope isnt pointing towards it, light pollution isnt an issue. As space based telescopes orbit the earth and that orbits the sun, they can look at any position in the sky while not pointing anywhere near the sun (or the earth). Light pollution is more of a problem when you have an atmosphere scattering light.
     
  15. bjs

    bjs Member

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    I don't know who you've been talking too, but solar systems/galaxies with high concentration of heavy elements (heavier than He), are very much in the minority. Our solar system is quite rare, especially considering we live in a backwater part of our galaxy or universe for that matter.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
  16. OP
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    Fortigurn

    Fortigurn Member

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    What's wrong with that massive thermonuclear thingy in the middle of the solar system? What's it called again?

    Is that essential to all forms of life, or only essential to one kind of life?
     
  17. Dave2972

    Dave2972 Member

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    Yes, some of the gases come from cows backsides, some of them were around long before that and coalesced in to fusion reactors under the weak action of gravity. You can see the results on a clear night if you look up.
     
  18. hlokk

    hlokk Member

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    I think its called "too far away" (seeing as the surface is minus 160 degrees). Plus sunlight doesnt tend to penetrate through 10s of kilometers of ice (plus another 100km of water if the life is at the bottom of the ocean).
     
  19. Whisper

    Whisper Member

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    I would have thought that this would make a for a pretty decent radiation shield, if it existed.
     
  20. bjs

    bjs Member

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    Do you think life can exist primarily composed of Helium and Hydrogen?
     

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