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This is a close-up image of Europa
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NASA

Can there be Life in the Environment of Europa?

At first glance Europa may seem unfriendly to life as we know it on earth.

Like other icy moons, Europa is small, with no air to breathe, with direct exposure to space and the charged particle environment of Jupiter's magnetosphere. On the surface, the temperature is very very cold.

Nevertheless, the interior of Europa may have been warm enough at one time to contain a liquid layer just under the surface. On Earth, we know that there are some creatures which can survive in an environment of very cold water, such as under the ice of the north pole.

This means that, if the conditions are just right, there may be living creatures on Europa under the icy surface!

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The diagram to the left shows a cutaway of the possible interior structure of Europa. The composition of the icy moons is mostly ice, therefore there is probably a small core of some rocky material buried...more

Amalthea

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Very Large Impact Crater

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA