Jupiter's Moon Discovered to Have Water Lake

Nov 17, 2011, 08:16 by R.E. Christian

U.S. researchers say a body of liquid water the volume of the North American Great Lakes is locked inside the icy shell of Jupiter's moon Europa.

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin say that could be a significant finding in the search for life beyond Earth, as the water could represent a potential habitat for life and many more such lakes might exist throughout the shallow regions of Europa's shell.

The newly discovered lake is covered by floating ice shelves that seem to be collapsing, providing a mechanism for transferring nutrients and energy between the surface and a vast ocean already inferred to exist below the thick ice shell, increasing the potential for life, they said.

"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,'" Britney Schmidt of the university's Institute for Geophysics said in a UT release Wednesday.

"Now we see evidence that even though the ice shell is thick, it can mix vigorously," she said. "That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable."

Source: UPI