Oana Teodora Mirea

Year: 2018-19

Oana Teodora Mirea

School: Școala Gimnazială nr.97

City: Bucharest

"I think Europa is the location that should be visited again. By researching this moon scientists might answer one of the most important questions: does extraterrestrial life exist?

Europa is one of Jupiter’s moon and has a water ice surface. The Galileo Mission led researchers to believe that there might be water underneath the ice, which is an essential ingredient for life. We know that the radiations Jupiter emits heavily alter the material from Europa’s surface and can destroybiosignatures, but in thearticle titled “Preservation of potential biosignatures in the shallow subsurface of Europa”, Tom Nordheim said he had discovered that radiations vary based on the location. He and his team studied the electron measurements from previous missions and concluded that radiations are weaker toward the poles. In those regions, scientists have to dig only 0.4 inches (1 cm) to solve the mystery of what lies under the ice.

Scientists also re-examined data from the Galileo Mission using new and advanced technology and the analysis suggested that Europa’s subsurface liquid water reservoir may be venting plumes of water vapor above its icy shell.Scientists have linked the plumes with the disruption in the magnetic field and they used the information offered by Galileo’s Plasma Wave Spectrometer and by Hubble to prove that the plasma signatures matched with the bend in the magnetic field. Therefore, the evidence that plumes exist is undeniable. A spacecraft sent to Europa could fly through a plume and could study the particles and gases to establish the composition of Europa’s interior.

Chemistry is another essential ingredient for life. Living beings extract energy from their environments via chemical reactions. If scientists confirm the existence of an ocean beneath the ice, the materials found in the water could produce elements essential for life such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous and sulfur when interacting with materials found on the surface Europa. However, the surface water ice is battered by intense radiations from Jupiter. Studying the high-radiated areas could help researchers better understand the effects of the radiations and find out if the radiated water ice affects the ocean underneath and the possible beings that live in it.

The images captured when Galileo flew within just 430 miles (692 km) of Europa on December 19 reveal ice-spewing volcanoes. Even though they were not shown as being active, the flows of material on the surface (that have not been observed on any other moon of Jupiter) most probably originated from the volcanoes. The images also show astonishing diversity in the geological age of various regions of Europa's surface.

To conclude, I believe that Europa is a fascinating target with so much information to offer and should be a priority to NASA. Using the data we have and new and advanced technology, not only we could find a suitable place for life, but in one mission so many questions related to Europa’s surface, its interaction with Jupiter, its interior and many more could be answered."

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