The Future

Figure 8 - Europa (http://www.apod.nasa.gov)

In 1982 the international astronomical union (IAU) an international significant organisation who aims to promote astronomy through international co-operation, launched a new ext-terrestrial searching commission. This new commission aim was to seek out new planetary bodies, in the effort to seek out extra-terrestrial life, intelligent or otherwise. (Guang-jie & Dao-han 2002). As a result of this commission attention has been drawn to one of the moons of Jupiter. Europa (figure 8) is one of the largest moons found orbiting Jupiter and interestingly has a surface crust covered in frozen water. Striations on the surface have been observed and are theorized to be created by strong tidal processes, providing evidence that beneath the surface there is a liquid ocean (Kattenhorn 2004). Sunlight exposure on the surface and through the ice would be negligible and not be sufficient for any form of plant life. We may be able to use comparative methods for sunlight deprived environments on earth in order to understand what may be occurring beneath the surface. It is possible that geological processes on Europa could drive ecosystems such as hydrothermal vents or cold seeps. We will most likely never find out whether life exists in such places however in order to accurately theorize what forms of life, if any, are present in the truly alien environment of Europa more intensive study of hydrothermal vent and similar ecosystems need to be initiated. With the continuing progress in marine exploration and related technology it seems that this will be achieved in the near future.

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