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Off-Beat Science: Water on Europa?

Written By Editor on 1/19/14 | 1/19/14


After it was announced in December that the Hubble Space Telescope detected massive geysers (or vapor plumes) erupting on Jupiter's moon Europa, scientists immediately began calling for further exploration into the possibility of liquid water existing elsewhere in the solar system. Europa is Jupiter's second largest of the Galilean moons and its surface is made up entirely of frozen water.
 
Because we don't have enough of liquid H2O here...
Astrobiologists, understandably giddy over the discovery, are hoping the possible presence of liquid H2O on Europa could also lead to the uncovering of life outside of our immediate universe, as their field's central dogma maintains that water + carbon = life, with water being the near impossible piece to the galaxy's puzzle.
 
Do Astrobiologists have to justify their field's existence like
my Biology professor had to during sixteen weeks of classes?
But, and this is a big but, scientists are completely missing the most important aspect of this story: tidal force. Tidal force is a secondary component of gravity, responsible for oceanic tides and in some cases severe gravitational strain that could theoretically result in the self-implosion of planets or moons under the right circumstances.
 
Alderaan never stood a chance against the intense
gravitational effects of the Empire's Death Star
Also, and proven scientifically, Europa's geysers or vapor plumes erupt only when the smoothest moon in the galaxy and Jupiter are at their farthest points, in accordance with tidal force predictions. Since we know tidal force could possibly strain moons to the point of implosion (or having all of its ice ripped off), couldn't it also be simply breaking massive chunks of ice off of Europa's surface and into the abyss of space?

Because this moon screams breeding ground for organisms
Maybe, the science is unsettled. However, I suspect we'll never know until some country is fooled into investing millions of dollars into the search for life on Europa, after which we will all watch in horror as tidal force ironically causes the Galilean moon to shatter into a million pieces - revealing the lack of liquid H2O after all...
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