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Planetary science: Icy moon Europa may produce less oxygen than thought Astronomy Nature | Nature wallet

Research press release


Nature astronomy

March 5, 2024

The total amount of oxygen produced on the surface of Jupiter's icy moon Europa may be less than previously assumed, a research paper suggests.Nature astronomyPublished in this discovery has implications for the habitability of Europe's vicinity.


Jupiter's moon Europa has a liquid inner ocean with habitable conditions beneath its frozen crust. Europa's surface is constantly exposed to radiation, which breaks down the ice crust into oxygen and hydrogen. Most of the oxygen and hydrogen escape the Earth's surface and either escape into space or remain to form Europa's atmosphere. The abundance of these gases and ions in the atmosphere, and thus their production rates on the satellite surface, are estimated mainly from remote sensing observations and are subject to significant uncertainties.


Jami Szalay and colleagues analyzed data from the Juno spacecraft's flyby of Europa on September 29, 2022. Juno is believed to have flown 353 kilometers above Europa's surface. Szalay and his colleagues used the Juno Aurora Distribution Experiment (JADE) instrument to study different capture ions (charged ions that occur when neutral particles in the atmosphere split when they collide with high-energy radiation or other particles). Acquired. From this data, Salai and his colleagues calculated that approximately 12 kilograms of oxygen are produced at Europa's surface every second. This is at the lower end of the expected value predicted by conventional models, which range from 5 to 1,100 kilograms per second.

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Szalay and his colleagues say their results suggest that there may be less oxygen on Europa's surface than previously thought, which is too narrow a range to support habitability in Europa's oceans, and I think this means that.

doi:10.1038/s41550-024-02206-x

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