James-Webb discovers the presence of carbon usable for life in the ocean of Jupiter’s moon Europa – Futura

Solar system exploration was expected to have received a second wind since the James Webb Telescope became operational, allowing it to go further than the HubbleHubble Telescope. A new example can be seen in the publication of two papers in Science indicating that the JWST appears capable of indirectly probing the secrets of the interior of the global ocean Europa, the icy moon Jupiter.

To better understand the issues, it is useful to remember that Arthur Clarke – the famous inventor of the geostationary satellite concept – proposed the idea of ​​life forming in the early 1980s in his famous novel 2010: Odyssey Two , taken seriously, could perhaps exist in the ocean beneath the European ice floes.

As Futura has explained in previous articles, for his hard SF novel Clarke drew only partially on the results that had just been achieved following the success of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 missions in their visits to Jupiter’s moons, namely the Discovery of Io’s volcanism and the first close-ups of the European ice shelf.

Inspired by the life forms near hydrothermal vents in the abyss in the 1970s, some exobiologists and planetary scientists speculated that similar forms might exist in the Europa Ocean, with volcanism, as in the case of IoIo, causing the tidal forces of the Jupiter system to cause that heats and kneads the rocky interior of Europe. It is possible that life on Earth arose in this way in the chimney walls of similar hydrothermal vents during the Hadean-Hadeer period or the early Archean Archean period.

These ideas have gained more and more weight over the years, to the point that missions to Europa have been decided and are underway, directly or indirectly, namely Juice and especially Europa Clipper.

Europe and its global ocean hold great promise for exobiology. To get a reasonably accurate French translation, click on the white rectangle at the bottom right. English subtitles should then appear. Then click on the nut to the right of the rectangle, then click on “Subtitles” and finally “Auto-translate”. Select “French”. © NASA

What composition for the European Ocean?

To advance exobiology, we need to clarify the composition of the European Ocean. We have every reason to believe it is salty, and we hope to detect biological molecules, ideally biosignatures, in the ice and geysers on the lunar surface.

The two independent studies published today are not yet a revolution, but it appears that today’s JWST observations strongly suggest that carbon dioxide ice is carbon dioxide (CO2), which has been detected on the sea ice of Europe for some time and is known on Earth as dry ice , comes from carbon dioxide emissions within Europe.

So far, we have not been able to convincingly rule out the possibility that the dry ice was formed by an influx of CO2 as a result of meteorite impacts or that it formed on the surface through interactions with matter flows and cosmic rays originating from Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

In a first article, astronomer and planetary scientist Samantha Trumbo from the famous Cornell University, where Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman taught, teamed up with the less famous astronomer Mike Brown from Caltech, who was responsible for downgrading PlutoPluto and the hypothesis of its existence was of Planet 9 with Konstantin Batygin.

Current dry ice in Tara Regio

The two researchers focused on JWST data that showed abundant dry ice in the Tara Regio – a region of about 1,800 square kilometers that features what Earth geologists would call chaos and exogeologists would call chaotic terrain (or chaotic terrain of chaos). that is, more Exactly in this case, as on Mars, we are dealing with a planetary surface on which the areas of ridges, cracks and planes are confused and mixed with each other. In the case of Europe, Conamara Chaos is a famous example.

Tara Regio is necessarily young, otherwise time would have “smoothed and regulated” her surface. If this is indeed the case, we conclude that the accumulation of dry ice occurred only recently and therefore can only have been caused by the massive arrival of carbon dioxide from the European Ocean to the surface.

However, we do not know whether the original carbon source in the European Ocean is biotic or abiotic; it could be organic material or surface carbonates from this ocean, which also release CO2 under the influence of cosmic rays. But it’s still too early to know. In addition, we on Earth know well that volcanic activity releases carbon dioxide. What is true in all cases is that it now appears to be proven that there is carbon in the European ocean that can be used by living things.

This video begins a series of general public courses on exobiology. Are we alone in the Universe? Maybe you’ve asked yourself the question before… We find answers in films, literature or science fiction comics and our imaginations are populated by alien creatures! But what does science say about this? The AstrobioEducation website invites you to discover exobiology, an interdisciplinary science whose aim is to study the origin of life and its research elsewhere in the universe. On an educational journey divided into 12 stages, researchers from various disciplines will help you understand how science works to answer the fascinating questions about the origin of life and its research elsewhere than on Earth. © French Society of Exobiology