Friday, November 18, 2011

Jupiter's moon may hold life, researchers say

For explorers searching for life beyond Earth, the siren song of Europa, Jupiter's icy moon, trills sweetly.

"Europa has the best chance of having life there today," said Britney Schmidt, who studies the moon at the University of Texas at Austin. Astrobiologists think so because NASA's Galileo probe found strong evidence for a deep, briny ocean covering the entire moon deep under the icy surface.

A theory published by Schmidt and colleagues Wednesday in the journal Nature is sure to raise the volume of the siren call. The scientists suspect liquid lakes lurk just under the moon's cracked and mottled surface.

The lakes themselves could provide a second habitat for life, said Don Blankenship, a geophysicist and Europa specialist also at the University of Texas.

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