When it comes to life, biologists have long hypothesised that its origins — on Earth, at least — were in thermal vents on the ocean floor, following a period of spontaneous metabolism before life began. Thermal vents are rich sites for marine life — especially in Antarctica where, in the darkness under the ice, creatures proliferate in the warm, mineral-rich waters streaming from the vents.
It’s just one of several theories, but if it’s correct, Jupiter’s moon Europa could be a very exciting place indeed. Ever since plumes of vapour were discovered on Jupiter’s moon in December last year, NASA has been floating theories about the oceans that may be sloshing away under the layer of surface ice — its similarities to theories about the early Earth look like it may have the ingredients for life.
“[There is] an ocean in our solar system that has been in existence for billions of years. It’s an ocean that is perhaps ten times as deep as Earth’s ocean. It’s an ocean that is global and may contain two to three times the volume of all the liquid water on Earth. It’s an ocean that exists beneath the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon, Europa,” said NASA astrobiologist John Hand in a new NASA video.