NASA Predicts Europa Contains Alien Life Forms Beneath Icy Surface
In the search for extraterrestrial life, Europa isn't necessarily at the forefront of the public consciousness, with Mars often cited as the most likely candidate for hosting alien life forms. But NASA has another avenue in mind, as they have requested public funding for a trip to Jupiter's frozen moon Europa, and have released a video explaining the evidence in favor of Europa as a host for extraterrestrial life.
Jupiter's Ocean World: Europa
NASA astrobiologist Kevin Hand explains in the above video that, although Europa is covered in ice, it is likely the best bet for finding alien life forms, because underneath that "icy shell" there is believed to be a liquid ocean. Based on several different data sets from satellites measuring everything from magnetic fields to the interior structure of the moon, NASA scientists are "confident" that this liquid ocean exists.
Europa hosting liquid water would be something of a "game-changer," as Hand puts it, because it lies outside the Goldilocks zone. The Goldilocks zone, named for the children's story, is a planet that's not too far from the sun and not too close; it's "just right." In other words, it's within the range of distances from the closest star that the temperature wouldn't be so cold that all liquid would freeze or so hot that all liquid would evaporate. Since Europa lies outside the Goldilocks zone, it shouldn't have liquid water, but, as Hand explains, the "tidal pull from Jupiter causes Europa to flex up and down, and all that tidal energy turns into mechanical energy, which turns into friction and heat, which helps maintain this liquid water ocean."
And if it does exist, then life is not only possible on Europa, but likely. When searching for life on other planets, astrobiologists take their cues from the origin of life on Earth. The prevailing attitude is that life on other planets will likely come into existence in a similar manner as it did on Earth, and many theories of abiogenesis assert that the first life forms existed in the ocean. "The story of life on Earth may have begun in our oceans. And if there's anything we've learned from life on Earth, it's that where you find liquid water, you generally find life."
NASA is not only searching for funding to travel to Europa, but they also put out a call for scientific instruments that could accompany them to the icy moon, including those that could detect life forms. "For the first time in the history of humanity we have the tools and technology and capability to potentially answer this question (of the existence of life beyond Earth), and we know where to go to find it," Hand said. "Jupiter's ocean world, Europa."