Science Corner – Ocean worlds in the solar system
There are weird and wonderful creatures in the dark depths of our oceans, but Earth is not the only world in our Solar System to have oceans, and possibly strange life forms, too.
Some worlds have vast quantities of liquid water beneath ice crusts, and we may be exploring them in your lifetime. Others have oceans of liquid methane or other organic compounds. The many moons orbiting the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune are all very different from each other, as we have seen by fly-bys of the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft.
Galileo discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter, which you can see for yourself with a good pair of binoculars. Europa is one of them, and underneath a thick icy crust covered in cracks and ridges, it is thought to have a deep saltwater ocean. The sun is too far away to melt the ice, and it will be dark, but heat can come from tidal stresses and from a warm interior, as inside the Earth. NASA plans to launch the Europa Clipper in 2024, on a six-year voyage…