NASA has new important things to tell us about Jupiter's moon Europa and its potential to harbor life. The smallest of the four Galilean moons — named after their discoverer, Galileo Galilei — Europa is perhaps one of the most captivating among Jupiter's satellites.
This icy moon has long been regarded as one of our best bets to find alien life, especially after the stunning discoveries of NASA's Galileo mission. The Galileo spacecraft performed a series of flybys of Jupiter and its moons between 1995-2003 and uncovered strong evidence that Europa has a global ocean underneath its surface.
The finding of salty, liquid water under Europa's icy crust means that Jupiter's moon meets one of the three main criteria necessary for life to exist.
Because of its big potential to support life, Europa has sparked a lot of interest over the years. Aside from the Galileo mission, four other spacecraft — Pioneer 10 and 11, Voyager 1 and 2 — have studied Europa, performing flybys of Jupiter's system ever since 1973, Space.com notes.
NASA has recently completed an analysis of the scientific data gathered over the years about Europa and plans to reveal its conclusions later today (May 14).
To discuss the new findings about Europa, NASA is hosting a Science Chat that will focus on the moon's "status as one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for life," the space agency announced in a news release.
The announcement comes only a week after the agency revealed fresh details on Jupiter's biggest moon Ganymede, recently discovered in the 20-year-old data of the Galileo mission.The event starts at 1 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. PT, 17:00 UTC) and will be live streamed on a number of online channels, including NASA TV, NASA Live, Facebook Live, Twitter Periscope, YouTube, Twitch TV, and Ustream.
The live discussion on the Europa update will be hosted by Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA's Planetary Science Division (PSD), and JoAnna Wendel, head of PSD communications.
The talk features some prominent guests invited to discuss the recent findings, starting with Xianzhe Jia, from the University of Michigan's Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering. Accompanying Jia will be Elizabeth Turtle, research scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, and Margaret Kivelson, professor emerita of Space Physics in the University of California's Department of Earth and Space Sciences.
NASA encourages the public to tune in on social media and drop questions at any time during the Science Chat by using the #askNASA hashtag.
One of the main topics of the discussion will cover NASA's upcoming Europa Clipper mission. Set to launch in 2022, the mission aims to confirm that Europa has a global ocean and uncover whether the moon also meets the other two criteria necessary for life: chemical ingredients and energy sources sufficient to enable biology.