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Thick ice crust may shield life on Europa
Posted: Fri, May 24, 2002, 7:49 AM ET (1149 GMT)
Europa (NASA/JPL) Jupiter's moon Europa has the raw materials that could support life, but any life would be under an icy crust thicker than previously thought. One paper, published in the latest issue of the planetary science journal Icarus, concludes that comets could have delivered to Europa the organic compounds necessary for life to form. Those compounds would have combined with the liquid water thought to exist below the Europan surface, as well as the moon's internal heat source, to form life. However, any search for such life may be hindered by the moon's thick ice crust. In a paper published Thursday in the journal Nature, scientists found that Europa's ice crust is at least 19 kilometers thick in most areas, making it difficult for any future missions to drill through it to the subsurface ocean. Paul Schenk, the lead author of the Nature paper, said there may be localized areas with thinner crust, but it's unlikely that there are any areas where the crust is only a few kilometers thick, as previously believed.
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