Clay-Like Minerals Found On Icy Crust Of Europa



Published on 13 December 2013

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by NASA

(WireNews+Co)

Washington, D.C.

First Detection Of Clay-Like Minerals On Europa
First Detection Of Clay-Like Minerals On Europa

A new analysis of data from NASA’s Galileo mission has revealed clay-type minerals at the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa that appear to have been delivered by a spectacular collision with an asteroid or comet. This is the first time such minerals have been detected on Europa’s surface. The types of space rocks that deliver such minerals typically also often carry organic materials.

“Organic materials, which are important building blocks for life, are often found in comets and primitive asteroids,” said Jim Shirley, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Finding the rocky residues of this comet crash on Europa’s surface may open up a new chapter in the story of the search for life on Europa,” he said.

Many scientists believe Europa is the best location in the solar system to find existing life outside of Earth. The moon has a subsurface ocean in contact with rock, an icy surface that mixes with the ocean below, salts on the surface that create an energy gradient, and a source of heat (the flexing that occurs as Europa gets stretched and squeezed by Jupiter’s gravity). Those conditions were likely in place shortly after Europa first coalesced.

Scientists have also long thought there must be organic materials at Europa, too, though they have yet to detect them directly. One theory is that organic material could have arrived by comet or asteroid impacts, and this new finding supports that idea.

The image above shows the first detection of clay-like minerals on Europa.




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Posted 2013-12-13 11:05:00