Brief Communications

Nature 403, 381-382 (27 January 2000) | doi:10.1038/35000281

Energy for microbial life on Europa

Christopher F. Chyba1

The planet Jupiter's moon Europa may harbour a subsurface water ocean1, 2, 3, but estimates of the available free energy have not been encouraging for supporting life1, 4, 5. Here I show that disequilibrium chemistry in the ocean's ice cover, driven by charged particles accelerated in Jupiter's magnetosphere, should produce enough organic and oxidant molecules to fuel a substantial Europan biosphere. Microbial life could exist in concentrations detectable by surface landers able to filter meltwater from Europa's ice.

  1. SETI Institute, 2035 Landings Drive, Mountain View, California 94043, USA, and Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences,
    Stanford University, Stanford,, California 94035, USA

Correspondence to: Christopher F. Chyba1 e-mail: Email: