New Discovery! Great Lake On Jupiter’s Icy Moon Europa!   40 comments

Great Lake of Europa


A large liquid lake has been discovered just below Europa’s icy shell may provide a habitat for life.

Europa's icy surface_plains of bright ice

Europa’s icy surface, as viewed from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. Visible are plains of bright ice, jumbled cracks an indication of a sub-surface heat source that run to the horizon, and dark patches that likely contain both ice and dirt. CREDIT: NASA/Ted Stryk


  • New research studies show Jupiter’s moon could have numerous large lakes just beneath its icy shell, and consequently closer to energy from the Sun, potentially providing a habitat for life.


  • Europa is one of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter which has at least 63 moons in total including Europa
  • Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon and orbits Jupiter every 3.5 days. It has an iron core, a rocky mantle (shell), a radius of 1,569 km and it is 670,900 km distant from Jupiter.
  • Although Europa is about 500 million miles away from earth it comes closer to resembling our planet and providing potential for life than anything else in the solar system
  • There is a large, subsurface ocean of salty water deep beneath its frozen, ice pack crust thought to be in some areas tens of kilometers thick.
  • Recently discovered lakes appear to be embedded closer to the surface.
  • Europa has more water than all the oceans of Earth


  • New research: A large liquid lake discovered approximately just 1.5 miles (3km) below Europa’s icy shell. Estimated to be equal in volume to all the North American Great Lakes combined.
  • Europa could have numerous large shallow lakes just beneath its icy shell placing them closer to energy from the Sun.

Thera Macula

One such lake lies underneath Thera Macula, one of Europa’s chaos terrains. Thera Macula (false color) is a region of likely active chaos production above a large liquid water lake in the icy shell of Europa. Color indicates topographic heights relative to background terrain. Purples and reds indicate the highest terrain.
CREDIT: Paul Schenk/NASA

  • Research also explains how nutrients and energy could get from the moon’s surface to its buried ocean.
  • In doing so they could possibly provide a habitat for life which would be a key finding in the search for places where life might exist beyond Earth.

Europa's Great Lake

Europa’s "Great Lake." Scientists speculate many more exist throughout the shallow regions of the moon’s icy shell.
CREDIT: Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel VFX/Univ. of Texas at Austin


Scientists believe that

  • The interaction between the Europa ice pack and the subsurface bodies of water transfer nutrients and energy that may lead to life existing under the Europa surface.
  • Life in the oceans of Europa would be similar to that which exists deep beneath the oceans on Earth where light does not penetrate.
  • Liquid water is thought to be necessary for life,
  • Microbial organisms may survive in this buried sea.

The “lake” holds potential as a habitat for life, and there may be many more such lakes throughout the shallower regions of Europa’s shell, said lead author Britney Scmhidt, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Geophysics.

“The potential for exchange of material between the surface and subsurface is a big key for astrobiology. Europa’s subsurface harbours much of what we believe is necessary for life but chemical nutrients found at the surface are likely vital for driving biology.”~Wes Patterson, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. and a co-author of the study.

“Now we see evidence that it’s a thick ice shell that can mix vigorously, and new evidence for giant shallow lakes. That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable. The material cycled into the ocean via these lakes may make Europa’s ocean even more habitable than previously imagined. The lakes may even be habitats themselves."~Britney Schmidt, lead author.


Determining the existence of such a body of water

Chaos terrain on Europa

Chaos terrain on Europa points to subsurface lakes. (NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)

  • Europa’s surface is cold, around minus 170 degree Celsius (minus 100 K). The bottom of the ice is slightly warmer.
  • Two circular bumpy features on Europa’s surface called "chaos terrains." similar to features on Earth suggest that Europa is still geologically active heated likely by tidal forces. These tidal forces provide more heat on Europa than would normally be the case for a celestial body that far away from the sun.
  • That means plumes of warm water well up against the Europa ice cap, fracturing them, to churn the ice and subsurface water causing the "chaos" terrain features.


Nutrients and energy are transferred from the frozen surface to the vast ocean below resulting in the possibility that environments suitable for life could exist under the Europa surface. Life in the oceans of Europa would be similar to that which exists deep beneath the oceans on Earth where light does not penetrate. This could also mean that Europa is more likely to harbour extra-terrestrial life than Mars.

"On Earth, it is the volcano [melting the ice]. On Europa, it is the warm ice plume coming up from below” ~Schmidt

"You and I might not notice the difference, but geologically it’s very different. Heat melts some of the ice into enormous lakes beneath the crust. Think of Europa as one giant ice shelf floating on a global ocean, with a really rocky core.” ~ Paul Schenk, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

Europa rising above Jupiter

The icy moon Europa rising above Jupiter’s cloud tops. The picture was one of a handful of the Jupiter system that New Horizons took primarily for artistic, rather than scientific, value.
CREDIT: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

CONFIRMATION? – the next step in confirming liquid water under Europa?

  • Confirmation of the existence of these lakes will involve a thorough investigation of both above and below the icy surface of Europa meaning a future mission to Europa is essential. The National Research Council’s Planetary Science Decadal Survey gave such missions one of the highest priority ratings.


A joint NASA/EUROPEAN SPACE STATION SPACE mission to Europa known as the EUROPA JUPITER SYSTEM MISSION is being considered. The intention being that the EUROPA ORBITER probe, which is estimated to launch in 2020 arriving in orbit off Europa in 2028 will by remote study hopefully give clues as to how the ice layers and the subsurface ocean interact. It will also study the organic exchange between them which could result in the existence of microscopic life in the subsurface ocean and lakes.

The EUROPA ICEPICK MISSION would involve the drilling through of Europa’s ice pack and a unique opportunity to explore the subsurface ocean, in the hope of finding some form of life and also other valuable scientific data.

"Europa is likely to have a deep ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust, making it an object of enormous interest as a possible abode for life," ~Planetary scientist Steve Squyres, with Cornell University

Funding for such missions to Europa is very uncertain. Most likely the Europa landers would cost anything from $800 million to $2 billion and that is only a rough estimate. This would involve input from several nations in order to obtain the necessary funding to make any one of these missions a reality.

40 responses to “New Discovery! Great Lake On Jupiter’s Icy Moon Europa!

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  1. Well they are only discovering secrets which Wolfie already new lol

    • Well of course they are! Lol 😉 Fortunately we ice wolves are a much better kept secret…the key ingredient to ensuring over-excited NASA/ESA scientists don’t end up turning us into ET lab rats in experiments to find out how ice wolves interact with the biosphere and whether we evolved from the microbial pond life that might…and might not…lol be thriving in our Great Europan Lake/s :S 😉

  2. this is a most facinating post! i wonder when we can start booking vacations, then?

    • Given that it’s about 5 million miles away…lol…now might be as good a time as any 🙂 Just email the NASA vacation shuttle staff and and book your flight…and then best go and pack! Don’t forget the skis and be sure to wear the thermals 😉 -170 degrees C is slightly on the chilly side! 🙂

  3. Such a lot of interesting facts here Wolfie, I was smiling at your comment back to our Friend Rosemary… :-)…. I expect it is only a short time before science and NASA tell us they have discovered life on other planets for certain..
    I do wish however that they were concentrate on conserving Life Here on EARTH though first.. they know more about our Moon, than they do about the Undiscovered species in the Amazon rain forests or the Deepest of our Oceans……. I just hope that they would concider to pour as much money into projects of conservation here on Earth than in exploration of places we are never going to reach unless we Time Travel. But then who knows for I am sure that even that maybe a Top level secret !!!…. Nothing is impossible when you understand that ALL things are Possible..
    And I got here on time .. Hehe….. Have a great Sunday Wolfie… and enjoy a hoooooowling day of relaxing star-gazing! xx

  4. Searching for life on other worlds and conserving life here on Earth should go hand in hand with each other! You know…MULTI-TASKING!!
    That thing that we women do so well and that the men do so badly!! lol 😉 Technology is changing ever faster Dreamwalker…what was impossible today could very easily become possible tomorrow, so to speak…we are advancing all the time. And if one of the numerous problems afflicting us on the conservation front is surely the ever expanding population of the Earth…shunting some of us starry eyed humans offworld to new ones could be a useful tool in reducing the amount of preesure we put on our homeworld and its resources we rely on so much. BTW…congrat’s on getting here on time!! I am very impressed by your 😉 Thanks for stopping by, it’s always great to see you as i hhhHHHHOOOOoooooOOOOOOOWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLLL long into the Europan night! xx 🙂

    • Make the most of my punctuality Wolfie,, heehe… I may shoot off-world very soon, lol.. as I am a Dreamer through and through, although my Multi-tasking skills are usually excellent, I can never seem to catch up with my inbox… seems it has a future plan all of its own, I only emptied it last evening to wake to 53 more.. 🙂
      As to shunting the population off world.. I think that’s the idea… although I doubt if we are scheduled to vacate the planet to start a new generation elsewhere.. I think we are just being shunted off the planet Full Stop! You know.. like permanently.. The off-world travel is for the elite selected tour of the Universe when we have ruined Mother Earth beyond recognition..

  5. All very interesting Timid one. To think that there exists a healthy population of Cod, swimming around in them there lakes, makes my heart leap. Wondering now how I can seize control of the fishing rights. I would make a Neptune ! millions and millions of Europa’s…. “Cod is great” HHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLL
    Just a minuet ! what is that I have just read….men can not multi-task. Well it isn’t that we can’t, it is that we don’t want to, don’t have to and don’t need to. We have things called women to do that for us. 🙂


    • Oh yes! Cod IS great! Lol 😉 The great Goldfish of opportunity await the one fortunate enough to gain the fabulous fins of fishing rights! I see the Salmons of wit are leaping plentiful here in the pond weedy lakes of icy Europa tho they may turn a little green around the gills when they realise the women are off fly fishing in the methane lakes of Titan across the cosmic pond on Saturn lol and CODsequently men will have to do their own multitasking!!! And that is a Salmon promise! But hey! What an awesome octopus of opportunity for you to swim upstream onto the fishing rod of opportunity!!
      Timid one HHhhhhhhoooooOOOWWwwwwLLLLLLing happy from the PLAICEful and icy Great Lakes of Europa!! 🙂

  6. I have really enjoyed looking at your slideshow on Live Icywolfy and it does make one think a lot about the possibility of life out in the solar system, I mean it is so vast so it is ridiculous to think that we are all alone and that there is no other forms of life on other planets.

    This posting adds the opportunity to indulge in the possibilities and I do believe that there are many planets with life form on them, it is just that we have not been able to discover them yet but in time I think there will be a breakthrough, hey maybe we should explore in one of my Gothic rocket ships… Yes that sounds like a lot of fun to me, and if we get enough peeps to sign up, well just think of all that wickedness on…

    Well Gloot and Krum perhaps? 🙂 lol Just kidding Icywolfy 🙂 Thank you for adding such a fine and detailed posting, I will be calling back for another read of this one but do add some more, maybe a few on Mythology too? 🙂 😉 Have a lovely rest of weekend and be as good as you can be, which will still mean that you are naughty and wicked but at least you will be having a go at being good for a change 🙂

    Androgoth XXx

    • I think we need to be more open minded and gain a greater understanding of how life is formed and evolves. Think outside the box. Naturally we base our ideas on ourselves and our own world but this could be severely restrict our chances of discovering ET life forms elsewhere. Then again with the abundance of strange and inexplicable life forms…or should I say un-dead lol ghoul forms that exist in the Gothic Realm 😉 perhaps you could be the best candidates for discouvering life on other worlds!!
      Hmm…a Gothic Realm space craft to Europa…don’t think it would get past space flight control! Lol 😉 Much too wicked and naughty to let loose on this pure and pristine nature reserve world!! Neighboring fiery Io with its wickedly active sulphurous volcanoes would be a very hot and ghoulishly good alternative watch out for rogue Firewolves tho!!

      • Hey I always look out for those Firewolve’s and Icywolfy’s too
        as they are very wicked and extremely naughty to say the very
        least 🙂 😉 Actually I think a Rocket trip to Europa could prove a
        very interesting adventure, and with you piloting the Pod into
        the nearest ET Volcano we (all of us) would have a hot time
        in the process… Well he didn’t actually mean ‘Phone Home’
        you know, he was actually saying ‘Oh No’, which is similar in
        Alien lingo expressionism but still means something entirely
        different… Are you still following this comment Icywolfy or are
        you yawning away and debating on clicking the delete option?
        Okay so you are still with me on this one. Right we are talking
        about Alien Naughtiness, as it is likened to that of a certain Io
        Icywolfy, not that you resemble an Alien of course, I know…
        Why don’t I start this comment all over again only this time
        omit anything to do with Rocket Trips and Aliens 🙂 😉 lol

        Have a really wicked Tuesday Icywolfy and get posting an
        offering on Mythology, something wicked but not too naughty 🙂

        Androgoth XXx

      • Wicked…extremely naughty…lol…what a cheeky summarisation of us fine and noble extra terrestrial wolfies! It did take a great deal of naughtiness it has to be said, to keep up with the wendings and windings of that comment 😉 It was something like trying to catch a Europa Eel from under an ice pack! lol…I don’t need a rocket to get to Europa, preferring to utilise the purpose-designed intergalactic wolf-ways…but a Rocket trip to Europa would certainly be a legendary experience 😉 We might never arrive at the nearest ET volcano given I would be severely distracted the whole way by mournful and moaning cries from a certain gothic vampire reminding me in loud and unforgettable terms that he would quite like a mythology post to appear pronto on a certain blog page…! 🙂 ! Hmm I could probably post one here if I had any inspiration! The comment box is humongously big tonight for some strange reason!! but it is a little distracting when a mythology hungry vamp is sharpening his fangs in uncomfortably close vicinity of the Icewolfie neck in the hope of inspiring great mythology posts lol 😉 and enjoying a neckful of “Wolfie-Red” in the process!!! I think I feel a “Mythology of EUROPA post coming on! Sharpish! lol 😉 Now be off on your night of dark and unmentionable wickedness you naughty Vamp!!! 🙂

      • I have just noticed this reply but I am not surprised of your
        Icywolfy wickedness though as that is your usual mnaughty
        self but seeing as you cannot add a commment without the
        cheek of Icywolfy wit and charm… I thought that you might
        like this little chap? 🙂 Well don’t be getting too excited he’s
        not Johnny Depp or Baldrick, not even that other bloke you
        like, now what is his name now? Ahhh yes Mr. Bean 🙂 lol

        Okay, here is your little
        gift for the weekend Icywolfy 🙂 😉

        Have fun now
        and be good 🙂

        Androgoth XXx

      • No…not exactly a Johnny Depp! lol 😉 But cute all the same in a wicked sort of way lol and made me smile thanks! Now…where are the nails for that coffin lid? 😉

      • Oh yes and while you are enjoying your
        wicked weekend out with the girlies, don’t
        forget to add a new Icywolfy Guestbook 🙂
        Well you really need one Icywolfy soooo
        pad over there and add one while you are
        thinking about it 🙂 Be good now 😉

        Androgoth XXx

      • G’day Androgoth…hope all is well in the Gothic Realm 🙂 I have no plans to add a guestbook in 2012.I understand and appreciate that they are a very important part of your own site but, as I stated on a couple of previous occasions when you raised this subject, for myself the useage level did not justify its presence. Your own will undoubtedly keep you very busy so do have a very fulfilling Sunday in gothic guestbook world 😉

  7. I read time ago If its true or not that there must be a lot of planets where life is possible.
    But minus 170 is a bit to cold fr me I stay here.
    And i read Andro’s comment.Imagine his space craft lol .But honestly maybe its better for nature to let nature stay nature and Human STAY OUT.
    tx for ur condolences wolfie.
    Be well enjoy the sunday evening

    • Nevermind the cold…just pop on the thermals and you’ll be fine! The number of planets (exoplanets) where life or human habitation may be possible is increasing all the time…now Kelper is also turning it’s attentions to exomoons too 🙂
      Thinking of you…take care and stay strong 🙂 x

  8. Hi hi wolfie du är rolig du…Ja visst finns det en härlig värd i mobilen och i datorn för annars kände jag ju inte wolfie..
    Kram min härliga vän Nicki

  9. Merhaba benim çok değerli arkadaşım Buz
    harika dostluk için teşekkür ederim
    size güzel ve mutlu bir hafta diliyorum
    hep sevgi ile kalın…görüşmek umuduyla

    • Merhaba ve iyi akşamlar benim harika bir arkadaşı Seçil
      güzel, sizi tekrar görmek
      Belki bir gün kişi bir araya geldiler;)
      Inanılmaz bir hafta benim iyi bir arkadaşım!
      Aşk ve sarılmak … Buz:)

  10. Ja meine Freundin die Wölfe frieren ja nicht, sie haben ein dickes Fell uns fehlt das leider vor allen an den Fingern wenn du schreibst. Grüsse dich Herzlich von mir Gislinde.

  11. hi icey great read there must be other planets like ours maybe one where e spend our spiritual life grim not got me yet icey but not that well yet lost my lovely heidi last week hopefully shes gambling around on four legs now xxjen

    • Hi jen…lovely to see you again but so sorry to hear about Heidi..did wonder if that might be the reason for your prolonged absence…don’t ask me why I should have thought that…just a feeling….you know the sort I’m sure 🙂 But she had a lovely long and happy life with you and now she will be gambling freely and and happily like a young puppy again…and she will always be padding alongside you in spirit 🙂 Special healing wolfie hugs for you… Icy xx

  12. Tack Wolfie…
    Glad att du gillar blogg och bild
    Nu pussar jag dig och önskar dig en magisk vecka…Nicki

    • Tack Nicki 🙂
      Och jag önskar att den magiska sånger Ice vargar
      serenad dig från din älskade mobiltelefon! 😉
      Jag vet ingenting skulle göra dig lyckligare!
      magiska mobil kramar … Wolfie:)

  13. Ich glaube das es noch leben im Uniwerzum gibt wir sind bestimmt nicht die einzigen Lebewessen, das Uniwerzum ist so Unendlich da sind wir bestimmt nicht allein.Sein Herzlich von mir Gekrüsst und hab noch einen guten Tag auch wenn es sehr Kalt ist.Grüsse von Herzen Gislinde.

    • Es wäre toll, wenn wir nicht allein sind im Universum Gislinde…
      Natürlich gibt es kosmische Eis Wölfe auf Europa:) Aber sie sind ein Geheimnis!
      Wenn es außerirdische Leben im Universum
      könnte es sehr seltsam das Leben sein!
      Werden könnten, sehr verschieden von Leben wie wir es kennen.
      Aber was eine spannende Gedanken Gislinde!
      Haben einen großen Tag, von Eis Wölfe umarmen 🙂

  14. hi icey hope your enjoying the start of 2012 i would if i could get rid of this awful bug eana is gorgeous icey i love her shes so sweet and going to be a lovely nature shes spoilt already she has taken a little heartache of looseing heidi away my little goth dog will soon be a big dark dame lol have a great week icey xxjen

    • I have the feeling Eana will do a great job of helping to ensure that troublesome bug will soon be history! She’s one of four varieties of Belgian Shepherd Dog in the same “family” which includes the Malinois mentioned in my Personal Protection Dog posts and also in “Cairo the dog who cornered Bin Laden…” He was also a Belgian Shepherd Dog (Malinois) 🙂 Icy x

  15. This is incredible Wolfie…wow!!!
    Oh my heart beats with hope and yearning for more!
    I did not know “Europa has more water than all the oceans of Earth”, that is amazing in itself.
    How little we know, how much we have to learn, but the journey is such a joy!
    Great entry my dear furry friend 😀
    love and hugs,

  16. A Big warm hug wrapped with all my love
    Just for you It’s Hug Day January 21st..
    Have a nice weekend..

  17. Hi wolfie! Well you knew that anyway having lived there for so long! I had better hurry up with the four little toe warmers i am knitting for you with that low temprature you will be needing them.

    Take care and thank you for your visit to the Wildwood

    love Suki x

    • HooooOOOOOOOOwwwwwwWWWWWWWWLLLLLLLoooooo Suki! Yes…lol…I did know that already 😉 but I’m trying to keep intruders out but I guess there’s no stopping a determined organisation like NASA :S Then again Wolfie has very large fangs…lol
      Now Suki!! About these toe warmers!! It is taking you a very long time to get them knitted 😉 At this rate of knitting I will only need one little toe warmer cos all the others will have dropped off and been used as fishng bait!!!
      Cheeky Wolfie hugs x 🙂

  18. Grüsse dich lieb meine Freundin hab noch einen schönen Nachmittag Gislinde.

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