Harika DOGAN

Year: 2018-19

Doga Seckin

School: Private Muruvvet Evyap Science High School

Grade: 12

City: Istanbul

Teacher: Harika Dogan

"Ever since the exploration of other planets and moons started, one of the biggest focuses of scientists were signs of life. We looked for similarities between our earth and other celestial bodies, as the same conditions that made life possible here can signal that it is possible there too. The most important of these conditions is the existence of water. Owing to its many characteristics, such as being a solvent and its polarity, water plays a vital role in maintaining life on earth. Even though we found other moons with water, Europa, a moon of Jupiter, has a unique feature: it has salt water oceans. Since oceans on earth consists of salt water, this characteristic of Europa makes it a top candidate of research for life.

Europa is one of Jupiter’s moons. It is believed to have twice as much water as earth does under a 15miles thick ice shell. It is not observed to have plumes on its surface but new research suggests that the groove lanes and bands carry water to the surface. Spotting the places where water leaks to surface not only show us places where we can get through the crust and reach the liquid, but also it shows us where to look at for geological source of energy, since it is believed to be one of the most crucial elements for life. Therefore, a spacecraft is of utter importance in order to scan the surface of this icy crust.

Water is a good sign for life research, but salt is usually overlooked in this picture. Salt is crucial for lots of living things on earth but not until recently, its role took enough credit in the origin of life. Miller Urey experiment is a famous experiment, that aims to simulate the conditions when life started on earth. In the experiments of Yi Ruiqin and Albert Fahrenbach from the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, they found out that salt is not only acting as a spectator, but is making a very important reaction possible. The electromagnetic radiation they used caused chlorine to lose an electron in salt. This turned it into a radical, a more chemically reactive particle, and eventually helped other reactions occur. Their experiment resulted in the formation of RNA, a nucleic acid that is vital for protein synthesis.

Our knowledge on Europa is still quite limited, yet, this leaves plenty of room for new research. Europa offers a lot with its salt water oceans and possible geological activity. The more similar the conditions are to Earth, the more likely we find extraterrestrial life there. New research on the connection between salt and the origin of life gives even more reasons to believe that Europa with salt water oceans has more potential than we thought before. We have a lot to learn about Europa and with such a big potential, this is the reason why it is the best candidate for research of extraterrestrial life."

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