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Europa - The Past and Future

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About The Image
This artistic picture illustrates Jupiter and its moon Europa during the dawn of the Solar System's creation. At this point, in time oceans graced the surface of Europa. Since liquid water existed in the past, could life have formed and even exist today? The primary ingredients for life are water, heat, and organic compounds obtained from comets and meteorites. Europa has had all three. From the images and data collected by the Galileo spacecraft, scientists believe that a subsurface ocean existed in relative recent history and may still be present beneath the icy surface. Europa's water should have frozen long ago, but warming could be occurring due to the tidal tug of war with Jupiter and neighboring moons.

The picture can also represent Europa 7 billion years hence, after the Sun has become a red giant. The heat from the aging sun should be sufficient to melt the ice and once again produce an ocean. (Copyright Calvin J. Hamilton)




Copyright © 1999 by Calvin J. Hamilton. All rights reserved.