Friday, October 9, 2009

Model Projects More Oxygen in Europa Ocean than Previously Expected

The Galilean satellites session at this year's DPS meeting was held today in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.  I am not at the meeting, but you can check out my thoughts on the Io-related abstracts for this meeting that I posted a few weeks ago.  While I haven't heard word on what was presented at the Io talks, there is a new press release today covering one of the Europa talks, "Vertical Transport through Europa’s Crust: Implications for Oxidant Delivery and Habitability," by Richard Greenberg.

At this talk, Greenberg presented results on the production of oxygen through radiolysis and photolysis of water.  During these processes, some water molecules on Europa surface are broken down into their oxygen and hydrogen components by high-energy particles in Jupiter's magnetosphere and photons from the Sun.  Greenberg combined this research with estimates of Europa's resurfacing rate to determine how much oxygen is delivered to the satellite's sub-surface ocean.  He found that given this resurfacing rate, the concentration of oxygen in Europa's ocean would exceed those of the Earth, making possible not only microbial like, but the kinds of multi-cellular aquatic like we are more familiar with.  Greenberg also notes that an initial, 2-billion year delay in this process would prevent the premature oxidation of organic compounds that would have prevented the development of life.

So for those who dream of eating Europa calamari, you just got a big boost today.  Now we just need to find organic compounds at Europa... otherwise, all you have is a quite oxygenated, but sterile, ocean.

Link: Press Release - Vertical Transport through Europa’s Crust: Implications for Oxidant Delivery and Habitability []

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