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Energy for microbial life on Europa

A Correction to this article was published on 27 July 2000

A radiation-driven ecosystem on Jupiter's moon is not beyond the bounds of possibility.


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.

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Figure 1: Jupiter's moon Europa is covered in ice, beneath which there may lie an ocean.


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Correspondence to Christopher F. Chyba.

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Chyba, C. Energy for microbial life on Europa. Nature 403, 381–382 (2000).

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