Does Existence Persist Beyond Us? The Approaching Eclipse.

Two new studies related to the search for life outside Earth have excited scientists. The first one is from NASA’s ongoing Juno spacecraft mission studying Jupiter and its moons. Researchers have found that Jupiter’s moon, Europa, which has an ocean beneath its ice shell, produces 1,000 tons of oxygen every day. This oxygen is not produced biologically but is a result of charged particles from Jupiter’s strong magnetic field impacting Europa’s icy shell and breaking apart water molecules.

Scientists believe that this oxygen could potentially seep through the icy shell to the ocean below, possibly aiding the evolution of any existing life forms. The gravitational forces of Jupiter and Ganymede, the largest moon in our solar system, provide the energy to keep Europa’s ocean in a liquid state. These forces could also create volcanic vents on the ocean floor, which pump minerals into the water, a condition that many scientists believe led to the origin of life on Earth.

The second study involves the Webb space telescope and a planet named K2-18b, discovered in 2015. Located in the habitable zone of a cool, red dwarf star, K2-18b is a sub-Neptune planet, larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. Researchers led by Nikku Madhusudhan from the University of Cambridge identified methane and carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere, suggesting that it might be covered with an ocean.

Moreover, the spectrum of K2-18b indicated the presence of dimethyl sulfide, a compound produced only by living organisms on Earth. However, researchers emphasize the need for more data before making any definitive conclusions about the possibility of life on K2-18b.

In addition to these exciting developments, stargazing enthusiasts have a total solar eclipse to look forward to on April 8. During the eclipse, all five visible planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – will be up. The eclipse can be viewed with proper eye protection, available from the Science Museum Oklahoma gift shop and various online platforms.

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