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Europa: Jupiter’s Habitable Moon?
A Grand Tour of the Solar System

Presented in partnership with George Mason University Observatory

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, November 28, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0314
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Europa, captured during a close flyby on Sept. 29, 2022 by the Juno spacecraft (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Björn Jónsson CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Jupiter’s satellite Europa almost certainly hides a global saltwater ocean beneath its icy surface and may be the most plausible world in our solar system to host life beyond Earth. Active geological and chemical processes, sustained by interactions with neighboring moons and Jupiter, could be sustaining habitable interior environments.

To explore Europa’s geology, interior structure, and composition and investigate its habitability, NASA’s Europa Clipper mission is preparing to launch in October 2024. Eventually, the interior ocean might be explored directly to search for life.

Samuel Howell, project staff scientist on the Europa Clipper mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, delves into the moon's fascinating history and distinctive features and the Europa Clipper mission. He also sheds light on the scientific evidence supporting the existence of a subsurface ocean on Europa and discusses why this ocean could be the most plausibly habitable discovered to date and the implications for potential life.

Series Information

The Grand Tour of the Solar System series treks to the Sun and the four inner terrestrial planets before traveling outward to the asteroid belt, four Jovian planets, and beyond. At each session, a professional astronomer explores a solar system body, presenting the latest research.

Following the talk and a question-and-answer period, Peter Plavchan, a professor of physics and astronomy at George Mason University, brings that night’s sky right into participants’ living rooms via remote control of the university observatory, weather permitting.

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