Home / Node / Robert Pappalardo Colloquium Abstract (Jan 13, 2016)

Robert Pappalardo Colloquium Abstract (Jan 13, 2016)

Exploring Europa: A Potentially Habitable World

Jupiter's moon Europa may have an internal ocean of liquid water, along with the chemistry and energy that life requires.  In the cold reaches of the outer solar system, the uppermost portion of Europa’s icy shell forms a rock-hard skin which fractures and deforms to create cracks, ridges, and bands.  But Galileo spacecraft data tell of a warm interior, with a convecting icy shell above a liquid water ocean, leading to partial melting and formation of chaotic terrains.  Exploration of Europa has been deemed an extremely high priority for planetary science, given this moon’s potential to support simple life.  After many years of study, NASA recently selected a highly capable suite of remote sensing and in situ instruments for a mission to explore Europa and investigate its habitability through multiple close flybys.   The mission will interrogate the moon’s ice shell, ocean, composition, geology, and current activity.  In understanding Europa’s potential for life, we can address the fundamental question: Are we alone in the Universe?