Astrobiologists are excited about the possibility of extraterrestrial life on Jupiter’s moon Europa. Evidence suggests this icy moon is home to a vast subsurface ocean. But until tools land on the moon to drill through the ice, ice-penetrating radar is the best method researchers have to confirm the existence of an ocean below the moon’s surface. Unfortunately, Jupiter’s own radio waves interfere with this process. But researchers believe they can use these radio waves to their advantage. Phys.org explains that Jupiter’s radio waves come from clouds of electrically charged particles trapped in the planet’s magnetic field. In order to cut through the interference from Jupiter’s loud radio signals, “a mission probing Jupiter’s moons would need a relatively strong transmitter, a massive device that might be difficult to power and fit aboard the limited confines of a spacecraft.” But rather than putting a transmitter on a spacecraft to fight against Jupiter’s radio signals, a new study suggests harnessing these radio waves to scan the planet’s moons, including Europa. The study’s lead author, Andrew Romero-Wolf at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explains, “The technique we are developing could not only provide a solution to that problem, it could turn it into a strength.” He continues, The great strength of this technique is that it doesn’t need a transmitter, just a receiver . . . A scanning system for subsurface oceans in icy moons potentially already exists. All we have to do is go there and listen. More via Openminds.tv.
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