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Jupiter's moon produces enough oxygen for a million people for an entire day

Jupiter's moon produces enough oxygen for a million people for an entire day

Jupiter's icy moon Europa produces 1,000 tons of oxygen every 24 hours, according to data collected by the Juno spacecraft orbiting the planet.

According to a new study, it is enough for one million people to breathe for one day. However, the results show that Europe is actually producing much less oxygen than previously thought.

The study was conducted before Nature astronomy The data was collected by Juno's Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE) instrument, which measures hydrogen emissions from the moon's icy surface. BBC Sky at night.

According to the study's authors' calculations, Jupiter's moon Europa produces about 12 kilograms of oxygen per second, while according to previous estimates, this percentage may reach 1,000 kilograms per second. But more importantly, according to planetary researchers, some of the oxygen produced may end up in Europa's subsurface ocean, and the icy moon is one of the best places in the solar system to look for habitable conditions beyond Earth.

Without water there is no life

On Earth we find life where we find water. Life as we know it depends on water. Therefore, if we want to discover where life could exist beyond Earth, it is useful to look for places in the solar system where liquid water can be found.

Europa is Jupiter's fourth largest moon, with a diameter of 3,100 km, and is believed to contain a large ocean of salty and liquid water beneath its icy crust.

In addition, Europa orbits Jupiter in the middle of the planet's radiation belt, so charged particles fall onto the moon's icy surface. This causes water molecules to split and produce oxygen that can enter the moon's ocean.

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On September 29, 2022, the Juno spacecraft flew within 354 kilometers of Europa, and JADE identified and measured hydrogen and oxygen ions generated by charged particles captured by Jupiter's magnetic field.

It is hoped that additional missions will help find a solution

“Europe is like an ice ball that is slowly losing its water in streams. But in this case, the stream is a liquid composed of ionized particles, which are swept up by Jupiter's extraordinary magnetic field,” says JADE scientist Jamey Szalay.

“When these ionized particles hit Europa, they break down the water ice on the surface molecule by molecule, producing hydrogen and oxygen. In a sense, the entire ice shield is constantly being eroded by the waves of charged particles that wash over it.”

“During our extended mission, we were able to fly by the Galilean moons. This allowed us to address a wide range of science, including some unique opportunities to contribute to the study of Europa’s habitability,” said Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator.

“And we're not finished yet. More flybys of the Moon and the first exploration of Jupiter's ring and polar atmosphere are yet to come.

Oxygen production is one aspect of Europa that NASA's Europa Clipper mission will study. The spacecraft will reach Jupiter in 2030.

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