Thursday, July 26, 2018

water and life

A huge lake of actual liquid water* has been discovered on Mars:

Meanwhile, NASA is about to engage in a new effort to search for life on Europa.

Researchers therefore regard Europa as one of the solar system's best bets to harbor alien life. Europa is also a geologically active world, so samples of the buried ocean may routinely make it to the surface — via localized upwelling of the ocean itself, for example, and/or through geyser-like outgassing, evidence of which has been spotted multiple times by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. [Photos: Europa, Mysterious Icy Moon of Jupiter]

NASA aims to hunt for such samples in the not-too-distant future. The agency is developing a flyby mission called Europa Clipper, which is scheduled to launch in the early 2020s. Clipper will study Europa up close during dozens of flybys, some of which might be able to zoom through the moon's suspected water-vapor plumes. And NASA is also working on a possible post-Clipper lander mission that would search for evidence of life at or near the Europan surface.

The universe is unfathomably huge, but even if you scale your thinking down to just our solar system, well, that in itself is also pretty damn huge. I wonder what life, if any, we might find right here, in our own neighborhood.

*The video is at pains to note that this might not be a "lake" in the classical sense: it might actually be water mixed with dirt (i.e., it's mud) and other elements/chemicals, etc.

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