NASA's Webb space telescope finds carbon source on surface of Jupiter's moon Europa
Astronomers using data from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope have identified carbon dioxide in a specific region on the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, NASA said on Thursday.
Analysis indicates that this carbon likely originated in the subsurface ocean and was not delivered by meteorites or other external sources. Moreover, it was deposited on a geologically recent timescale, according to NASA.
This discovery has important implications for the potential habitability of Europa's ocean.
"On Earth, life likes chemical diversity – the more diversity, the better. We're carbon-based life. Understanding the chemistry of Europa's ocean will help us determine whether it's hostile to life as we know it, or if it might be a good place for life," said Geronimo Villanueva of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
NASA plans to launch its Europa Clipper spacecraft, which will perform dozens of close flybys of Europa to further investigate whether it could have conditions suitable for life, in October 2024.