Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin said they have discovered a body of liquid water the volume of the North American Great Lakes inside one of Jupiter’s moons.
The team said that the water could represent a potential habitat for life, and many more lakes might exist throughout the shallow regions of Europa’s shell.
The lake is covered by floating ice shelves that appear to be collapsing, which could provide a mechanism for transferring nutrients and energy between the surface and a vast ocean already inferred to exist below the thick ice shell.
“One opinion in the scientific community has been, ‘If the ice shell is thick, that’s bad for biology — that it might mean the surface isn’t communicating with the underlying ocean,’ ” lead author Britney Schmidt, a postdoctoral fellow at The University of Texas, said in a press release. “Now we see evidence that even though the ice shell is thick, it can mix vigorously. That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable.”
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