Scientists have long been struggling to find out evidence suggesting possibility of habitat on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. A new study offers a ray of hope in this regard.
According to the scientists, the segments of the Europa’s ice crust appear to be moved by the same basic forces that work on rearranging the continents on our planet Earth.
Scientists have long believed that the surface features on Europa were due to the tectonic movement but they didn’t have any strong evidence to support the notion.
Before this recent finding, the scientists had only visual evidence of the expanding icy crust of Europa. However, these visuals didn’t offer scientists to trace those areas that depicted the destruction of old crust and creation of the new one.
With the help of Nasa’s Galileo orbiter in the early 2000s, planetary geologists Simon Kattenhorn (of the University of Idaho) and Louise Prockter (of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland) examined the images and came across some unusual geological boundaries on the Jupiter’s moon.
“On Europa, we did see features that were very reminiscent of plates that looked like they had displaced,” said Kattenhorn.
According to the study, many parts of Europa’s surface have clear evidence of extension. There are up to tens of miles wide bands formed when the surface ripped apart. As the old crust got destroyed, it was replaced by fresh icy material that came from the underlying shell. The scientists say this process is similar to terrestrial seafloor spreading.
The findings also indicate towards other life supporting evidences like a moon with a heat source that supports a liquid ocean and a mushy layer between it and the crust.
The astrobiologists say the evidence of active tectonics is a welcome sign for the Earth dwellers who have been on a rigorous hunt for habitats.
The findings were published in this week’s issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.
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