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Ocean on Jupiter moon Europa may have been habitable in the past

Scientists have figured out how the ocean formed beneath the surface of Jupiter moon Europa and believe this vast expanse of water may have sustained microbial life in the past, Reuters reported.
Europa, with an ocean hidden deep beneath the dense ice sheet, has long been seen as a potential habitat for alien life in our solar system, among other candidates such as Mars and Saturn moon Enceladus. A new study presented at a geology conference highlights its potential, BTA conveys.

Scientists have found that Europa's ocean may have formed after water-rich minerals dumped their water content under the influence of heat caused by the decay of radioactive elements in its interior at the beginning of its history.

The effect of tides caused by Europa's gravitational interactions with Jupiter - the largest planet in the solar system, and two other large Jupiter moons, Io and Ganymede, may have also played a role.

"We think that Europe's ocean may have been habitable early after its formation, as our models show that its composition may have only been slightly acidic with carbon dioxide content and some sulfates,” says planetologist and study leader Mohit Melwani Daswani from NASA's Jet Motion Laboratory.

"The presence of liquid water is the first step towards habitability”, Daswani adds.

The scientist also says that microbes similar to some terrestrial bacteria that use carbon dioxide for energy may have survived relying on available ingredients in Europe's early ocean.

In size, Europa gives way to the moon, but its ocean, at an estimated depth of between 65 and 160 kilometers, probably contains twice the amount of water than the Earth's oceans.

Specialists note that their study assesses whether Jupiter moon Europa was habitable in the past and does not affect its current habitability, which is the subject of new scientific research.

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