Europa's "Great Lake." Scientists speculate many more exist throughout the shallow regions of the moon's icy shell. Image Credit: Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel FX/Univ. of Texas at Austin.
There’s now evidence that one of Jupiter’s moons has quite a bit of liquid water beneath its surface. The water on the moon, called Europa, is equal to that of the Great Lakes, according to NASA.
So what does it mean? Could there be microscopic life on Europa? After all, the search for life begins with the search for water.
Scientists believe many moons and planets have, or had, water on its surface or below its frozen core.
Here are some of those places.
Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
In this early-2011 image of Mars, you can what looks like liquid flowing down a Martian slope. “Sequences of observations recording the seasonal changes at this site and a few others with similar flows might be evidence of salty liquid water active on Mars today,” according to NASA. Learn more about water on Mars here.
Courtesy of NASA/Sean Smith
In 2009, NASA announced that it had found a “significant amount” of water on the moon. “We’re unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbor and by extension the solar system. It turns out the moon harbors many secrets,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Read more about water on the moon here.
Europa – One of Jupiter’s moons
Courtesy of NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Jupiter has more than 60 moons, but one of its most famous is Europa. “The icy surface of Europa is shown strewn with cracks, ridges and chaotic terrain, where the surface has been disrupted and ice blocks have moved around,” according to NASA. Read more about Europa here.
Enceladus- One of Saturn’s moons
Courtesy of NASA/JPL/SSI
Oh Enceladus, how I love thee. This is one of my favorite moons because I feel it has a very good chance of having some sort of microscopic life. See the lines on the moon’s surface? Scientists believe they are caused by the release of plumes of water and ice. Those icy jets led researches to believe that a large body of water lies beneath the moon’s surface. Read more about Enceladus here.
Titan- One of Saturn’s moons
Courtesy of NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/DLR
This 2009 image shows the first flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Saturn’s moon Titan, according to NASA. “It confirmed the presence of liquid in the moon’s northern hemisphere, where lakes are more numerous and larger than those in the southern hemisphere.” Read more about Titan here.
Triton- One of Neptune’s moons
Courtesy of NASA/JPL/USGS
Ah yes, Triton. Not to be confused with Titan. Why are they so similarly named? Anyway, Triton is Neptune’s largest moon. “It is unusual because it is the only large moon in our solar system that orbits in the opposite direction of its planet’s rotation — a retrograde orbit,” according to a release. “Triton is so cold that most of its nitrogen is condensed as frost, making it the only satellite in the solar system known to have a surface made mainly of nitrogen ice.” Read more about Triton here.
Outside of our solar system: TW Hydrae
Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech
This artist’s concept illustrates an icy planet-forming disk around a young star called TW Hydrae. Astronomers detected large amounts of cool water vapor, illustrated in blue, emanating from the star’s planet-forming disk of dust and gas. Read more about TW Hydrae here.