Chemistry of Jupiter moon could aid life

April 5, 2013 at 5:06 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., April 5 (UPI) -- A common chemical abundant on Jupiter's moon Europa could be an important energy supply for simple forms of life, U.S. researchers say.

If hydrogen peroxide, found across much of the surface of Europa, were to mix into the oceans below it could create the energy needed to sustain very simple biological processes, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said.

"Life as we know it needs liquid water, elements like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur, and it needs some form of chemical or light energy to get the business of life done," JPL researcher Kevin Hand said. "Europa has the liquid water and elements, and we think that compounds like peroxide might be an important part of the energy requirement.

"The availability of oxidants like peroxide on Earth was a critical part of the rise of complex, multicellular life."

Hydrogen peroxide was first detected on Europa by NASA's Galileo mission, which explored the Jupiter system from 1995 to 2003.

"At Europa, abundant compounds like peroxide could help to satisfy the chemical energy requirement needed for life within the ocean, if the peroxide is mixed into the ocean," Hand said.

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