NASA’s James Webb Telescope detects first evidence of carbon on Jupiter’s moon Europa

NASA's James Webb Telescope detects first evidence of carbon on Jupiter's moon

On Europa’s surface, carbon dioxide is most abundant in a region called Tara Regio.

In an unprecedented discovery, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has detected the presence of carbon dioxide on Europa, one of Jupiter’s icy moons. According to a NASA release, astronomers used data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and identified carbon dioxide in a specific area on Europa’s icy surface. According to space.comThe team was able to use observations made in the infrared with JWST’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument to determine that the carbon molecules were not delivered to Europa through meteorite impacts or other external sources.

In particular, this discovery has important implications for the potential habitability of Europa’s ocean.

Scientists knew that beneath Europa’s icy shell was a salty ocean of liquid water with a rocky seafloor. However, they did not confirm whether the chemicals necessary for life, especially carbon, were present in that ocean.

”On Earth, life likes chemical diversity – the more diversity, the better. We are carbon based life. “Understanding the chemistry of Europa’s ocean will help us determine whether it is hostile to life as we know it, or if it could be a good place for life,” NASA in Greenbelt, Maryland. Geronimo Villanueva of the U.S. Goddard Space Flight Center, lead author of one of the two independent papers, said in a statement.

“We now think we have observational evidence that the carbon we see on the surface of Europa came from the ocean. This is not a simple matter. Carbon is a biologically essential element,” said Samantha Trumbo, lead author of a study that analyzed the data.

Webb found that on Europa’s surface, carbon dioxide is most abundant in a region called Tara Regio – a geologically young area of ​​generally regenerated terrain known as “chaotic terrain.” The surface ice has broken up, and possibly exchange of material has occurred between the subsurface ocean and the icy surface.

“Previous observations by the Hubble Space Telescope show evidence of ocean-derived salt in Tara Regio. Now we are seeing that carbon dioxide is also concentrated there in huge quantities. “We think this means that the ultimate origin of carbon probably occurred in the interior ocean,” Ms. Trumbo explained.

NASA now plans to launch the Europa Clipper mission in October 2024, which will make dozens of close flybys of Europa to further investigate whether it might have conditions suitable for life.

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