Space mystery may be as simple as salt

Petro_Europa's Surface NASA gov_May12_196159

(MEDIA GENERAL) – NASA researchers have recreated a chemical substance found on one of Jupiter’s moons in laboratory testing; the “mystery material” may suggest supported life.

According to NASA experiments, a subsurface ocean on the moon Europa may contain sea salt, discolored from exposure to radiation. The dark substance covers many of the moon’s geological features on its frozen surface and bears great resemblance to earth’s sea salt.

Kevin Hand, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has conducted simulations, along with his co-author, Robert Carlson, to reveal the mystery material’s chemical composition.

“The lab setup mimics conditions on Europa’s surface in terms of temperature, pressure and radiation exposure. The spectra [or chemical fingerprint] of these materials can then be compared to those collected by spacecraft and telescopes.”

Hand also concluded that from these experiments, he and his partner have found “a compelling match” for the substance that had been previously recorded by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft and telescopes.

The presence of sea salt, along with other environmental factors, hint toward the possibility of life on Jupiter’s moon.

According to NASA, “life as we know it depends on three key ingredients.” These ingredients include liquid water to facilitate chemical reactions, essential chemical elements that are crucial for biological processes, and a source of energy that can be utilized by living things.

While it may be located miles below the surface, evidence suggests that Europa possesses liquid water. Essential chemical elements are present. Energy sources are also there from constant tidal flexing which creates heat energy, and radiation providing chemical energy.

As a result, NASA claims that “Europa appears to meet the minimum requirements for life.”

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