Did NASA Find Life on Europa?

There’s an enigmatic news release at the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) website today: NASA to Hold Media Call on Evidence of Surprising Activity on Europa

Surprising activity? What’s going on? The news release says:

NASA will host a teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Monday, Sept. 26, to present new findings from images captured by the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope of Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa.

We gotta wait until Monday? What else do they say? Not much, but there’s this:

Astronomers will present results from a unique Europa observing campaign that resulted in surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa.

Wow — an ocean! After listing the participants in the Monday teleconference, they say:

Audio of the teleconference will stream live on NASA’s website at NASA Live.

That’s all there is, but speculation is already running wild. This headline appears in London’s Daily Express: Is there LIFE on Europa? NASA to announce major news in breakthrough press conference. They say:

The US group sent out a cryptic message, stating that there is “surprising activity” on Europa – the most well known of Jupiter’s 67 moons. NASA has been analysing data from its Hubble Space Telescope which is currently prowling the universe.

The space experts said in a statement announcing the event on Monday, to be broadcast live at 7PM UK time: “Astronomers will present results from a unique Europa observing campaign that resulted in surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa.”

Most scientists agree that where there is water, it massively increases the chances of finding life.

Then they quote someone named Steve Levin, described as a “project scientist” (he isn’t one of the NASA teleconference participants), who says:

We think Jupiter’s icy moon Europa has a subsurface ocean of liquid water; and because everywhere on Earth that we’ve found water, we’ve also found life, this is a good place for us to search.

But then they add a note of caution:

However, many are not convinced and believe the announcement will relate solely to the discovery of water on Europa.

So there you are. That’s all we’re likely to know until the conference on Monday. Stay tuned to this blog!

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “Did NASA Find Life on Europa?

  1. I read or heard somewhere recently that they have seen geysers or water spouting from the poles of Europa far into space. This would offer an opportunity to sample the water using a flyby probe rather than having to send down a probe to bore through ice.

  2. I thought that there were geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

  3. Wasn’t Europa the moon that harbored life in “2001, A Space Odyssey?” They had planted a monolith on our moon, whereby we ventured out into space in that classic movie?

  4. DavidK, Europa was in the second movie in the series, 2010: Odyssey Two. The monolith or something sent this message: “All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there.”

  5. I dread NASA announcements. Seems like a lot of hoopla for a meh announcement or, worse, embarrassing. Now, if they imaged an old geezer on Europa, that would be news!

  6. It’s probably going to be anticlimactic, although I will rejoice if it is not. Scientists whose life’s work consist of the minute examination of slowly-accumulating evidence tend to overestimate the impact of small increases to it, and the general public – even the scientifically-literate general public – tends not to follow even rigorous extrapolation from it.

    Liquid water on Europa has long been suspected. Have they got a thermal signature indicating its presence and the presence of thermal vents in these oceans? Or have they got more?

    I await the press conference with impatience. If they have something momentous, I can’t imagine anything that might spur a space program more.

  7. docbill1351 says: “I dread NASA announcements. Seems like a lot of hoopla for a meh announcement”

    The Discoveroids have taught me the value of intuition. My intuition is that they will announce more than water on Europa. I think they found evidence of life.

  8. Megalonyx mentions the ‘impossible’ cloud that’s been spotted over Titan.

    There is often a seemingly impossible cloud over the Seventh Planet, but Megalonyx knows the cause of that all too well. According to Olivia, he is the cause.

  9. @docbill1351: Some say geeser, some say geyser – let’s call the whole thing off.

    I’m with you on this one, doc. If it were something really big, wouldn’t they just go ahead and announce it? Finding evidence of life would be really big — can’t imagine they’d wait ’til Monday of next week to give the details. NASA wouldn’t want it to leak out in the meantime.

    In my very uninformed opinion, they probably have only detected a change in some surface features, comparing old photos to new. Maybe a geyser or two, but no geesers.

  10. Pope retiredsciguy speculates that NASA

    probably have only detected a change in some surface features

    Agreed. And I think it a very safe bet that the Discoveroids will proclaim that anything less than a discovery of life as another failure for ‘Darwinism’…

  11. News flash from NASA:

    “The sun was observed edging southward directly overhead at the Equator, thus proving the existence of Autumn! Details at Monday’s news conference.”

  12. retiredsciguy also thinks the NASA news conference will be insignificant. I say he’s wrong! If my intuition is correct, I shall take all the credit. Otherwise, I’ll blame the Discoveroids for telling me that I can rely on my intuition.

  13. I’m sure AIG is on edge waiting for this story to break. They’re likely mustering all their “talent” for a negative rebuttal the instant when this announcement is made.

  14. Everybody needs to just calm down. There is no life on Europa–and I should know. It’s impossible to fly from Titan to Earth without changing planes on Europa, and then again in Atlanta.

  15. If you’re Rigelian when you walk into a restroom, and Rigelian when you walk out of a restroom, what are you in the restroom?

    European! (You’re-a-peein’)

  16. Speaking as a Brit (and without studying the report in question in detail) it is I’m afraid rash to trust the Daily Express on any matters scientific (in particular). The paper is basically trash. There’s another UK report here (the Independent was a newspaper but now only exists as a news website):

  17. The latest camera installed on Hubble has much greater resolution and a wider spectrum that the old camera. Perhaps variations in the reddish areas can be seen by Hubble? That would be pretty cool, and would indicate that Europa is an active world.

    Geysers are possible, but I think that’s less likely – the ice is supposedly over 60 miles thick.

    Hubble also received a new spectrograph in the last servicing mission. Maybe something unexpected was detected in the spectra.

  18. Ed:
    “Geysers are possible, but I think that’s less likely – the ice is supposedly over 60 miles thick.”

    If there are strong tidal forces exerted on Europa (likely, given the size of Jupiter), frictional heating can occur close enough to the surface to make geysers possible. Guess we’ll just have to wait ’til Monday to see what’s up.

  19. retiredsciguy says: ” Guess we’ll just have to wait ’til Monday to see what’s up.”

    I’m telling you there’s life on Europa! How do I know? Because a guy named Luigi works at a nearby Standard Oil station with his three brothers, and he says his whole family came from Europa. If you doubt that, then you can argue with Luigi and his brothers.

  20. @ SC: I thinka Luigi is wrong.

    Maybe they’ve photographed a monolith.