Looking for water in space

26 November 2019 | Written by La redazione

A recent study has shown that there is an ocean under the crust of Jupiter's "Europa" satellite and there are those who are preparing to explore it.

Water is an extraordinary substance, not only for its properties but also because it is the basis of all life. It is not surprising therefore that many astronomers concentrate their efforts in the search for this exceptional molecule in the Universe, in search not only of conditions that can accommodate life, but also of places where humanity, in the future, can find a new home.


Water on Europe. A research team from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center confirmed the presence of traces of water over the surface of Europa, one of the Jupiter’s Moon covered with a crust of ice. The discovery was made thanks to observations from the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii that used a spectrograph to determine the composition of the gases surrounding the satellite. This is just the umpteenth confirmation that this moon hides a deep ocean and possibly laden with organic compounds released into the water from underwater hydrothermal springs. Being able to explore this ocean would provide us with a huge amount of data and perhaps could also allow us to discover life forms – simple microorganisms – aliens.


Underwater submarines. Visiting these places in person, at least for now, is out of the question: too far away and dangerous, between intense radiations and very high pressures. There is someone – or rather something – that could do it for us. Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is working on a rover capable of diving in icy waters and walking upside down on the icy submerged surface. The rover, called BRUIE (Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration), will soon be tested in Antarctica and will be able to run under the frozen surface: it will be enough floating to provide traction to its wheels towards the ice above the water. If the project works, it will be possible to send one of these robots to Europa and then observe what is hidden under the thick icy crust.

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