European life exterminated acid

19.02.2004

19.02.2004


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Jupiter's moon Europa may not be the most suitable place to live — despite the presence of ice and water, it may well be corrosive greenhouse filled with acid and hydrogen peroxide. This is the conclusion reached by scientists involved in the preparation of the mission Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter, is planning to study the satellites of Jupiter.

Almost all of the information about Europe, which the scientists have been obtained from the spacecraft, "Galileo", which completed its work in 2003. Although in the scientific understanding of the prevalent Europe as a satellite, coated with a layer of water ice to concealing located several kilometers deep ocean salinity, researchers studying the latest measurement found in the spectrum of light reflected from an icy surface indicated the presence of hydrogen peroxide and a strong acid, whose pH, if they are in liquid state, is close to zero. Scientists find it difficult to say whether these substances cover the surface with a thin layer, or leak from a container at the bottom of the ocean. Hydrogen peroxide appears to be formed on the surface, when charged particles arrested magnetosphere Jupiter, collide with the molecules of water in Europe.

But this part of the surface ice is rich with something that is very reminiscent of acidic compounds. Robert Karlsson of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (USA) believes that this sulfuric acid. He believes that, in some places up to 80% of surface ice may consist of concentrated sulfuric acid, and suggests that this substance could be formed by bombarding the surface of the sulfur atoms ejected into space by volcanoes on Io, Jupiter's friend.

Other scientists believe that the acid could leak out of the subsurface ocean of Europe. As proof, they point out that the maximum concentration of the alleged acid observed in those areas where, according to the characteristics of the surface of the liquid coming out of the ocean to the surface and froze here. Perhaps the acid formed from the dissolved salts in the ocean, mostly sulfates of magnesium and sodium. The radiation intensity at the surface of the circuit caused chemical reactions formed as a result of which a large amount of sulfuric acid and other sulfur compounds.

Others believe that the sulfuric acid on the surface could go directly from the ocean. Jeff Kargel of the U.S. Geological Survey believes that the "heart" of Europe is composed of rock and underwater volcanoes spew sulfur compounds and oxygen are in the water react to form sulfuric acid.

All of these assumptions dramatically reduce the likelihood of finding life on Europa, as strong acids tend to destroy organic compounds. However, the possibility of life is not excluded — some earthly good bacteria thrive in an environment with a level of acidity of about 0.

Another blow to the hopes of finding life on Europa caused Paul Schenk of the Institute of planets and satellites (USA), who reported that a dark spot on the surface of Europe — a deepening of 350 meters, located near the hill height of 900 meters — and thus, the total height difference is 1250 meters. According to his calculations, to support such a relief, you need a layer of ice thickness of 10 to 30 kilometers — it's too much for any probe capable of drilling holes.

Researchers are unlikely to find anything else out of the data collected, "Galileo". Made touch probe measuring only a small part of the moon's surface, and much of the detail is illegible due to background "noise" and low resolution.

18.02.2004

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