In a significant breakthrough study, researchers at Brown University in the United States have discovered evidence of tectonic plates pushing against one another, a process called subduction — producing the energy necessary for life.
Brandon Johnson, an assistant professor at the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Brown University explained: “If really, there is life in that sea, subduction provides a means to supply the nutrients it might need.”
Such nutrients comprise oxidants, electron-stripping substances that are typical on Europa’s surface which might help supply an energy source for life, according to the researchers.
On Earth subduction is driven primarily by temperature differences between relatively cool, dense rocky plates as well as the super hot surrounding mantle.
Europa’s icy surface signifies that warmth cannot be the driving force, but the investigators assert that it doesn’t mean subduction cannot happen.
According to Mr. Johnson’s group computer models suggest that Europa’s ice plates can indeed dive — if they’re saltier than their environment.
The assistant professor said: “adding salt to an ice slab would be like adding little weights to it because salt is denser than ice.”
“So, instead of temperature, we show that differences in the salt content of the ice could enable subduction to happen on Europa.”
“It’s fascinating to think that we may have plate tectonics somewhere besides Earth.
“Believing from the perspective of comparative planetology, if we are now able to study plate tectonics in this very different place, it might be able to help us understand how plate tectonics got started around the Earth.”
The News is as scientists working in NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland may have found compelling evidence Pluto could support life.
New research indicates that distant Worlds such as Pluto and others like Eris could have watery oceans sloshing beneath their icy exterior.
Lead author Prabal Saxena, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said: “These objects need to be considered as potential reservoirs of life and water.
“If our study is correct, We may have more areas in our solar system that possess some of the critical elements for extraterrestrial life.”