News of the WeekASTROBIOLOGY

Putting a Lid on Life on Europa

Science  09 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5545, pp. 1258-1259
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5545.1258

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Now that the idea of an ocean on Jupiter's satellite Europa is generally accepted, the debate has shifted to how far below the icy surface it lies. If it's too far, even the most tenacious ocean life could be cut off from its best energy source-the sun-and heavily shielded from the prying eyes of astrobiologists. Now new information about how comets punch into Europa's surface, reported on page 1326, suggests that the ice is more than 3 to 4 kilometers thick, posing a great obstacle for life in Europa's ocean as well as for astrobiologists.