Special Note: Because this article is more about the pictures than our text, I inserted more whitespace than usual into the article, to accomodate the pictures.
Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke already told us there is life on Europa. He's the same guy who showed everyone how to set up a satellite system that could carry telephone calls around the world back in 1948.
Clarke is really proud of that Popular Science article, and he loves it when people still occasionally refer to a geosyncronous orbit as a 'Clarke orbit'.
Europa is one of sixty-two known moons of Jupiter. Its neighbors Ganymede and Io each have thousands of craters pitting their surface, yet Europa's surface is quite smooth. It has few impact sites. Its surface is ice, yet land-type features keep appearing in photographs from spacecraft such as New Horizons.
We know a few things about Europa.
It's covered in a thick layer of water ice, and similar to some places in the Arctic Ocean, the liquid water below forces the ice above into high pressure ridges occasionally.
But some features on Europa remain a mystery, even with the best images.
I worked with several high-resolution photographs from the NASA Photojournal to show you some of these mysteries. There are the originals, and there are enhanced close-ups of interesting features.
Scientists have speculated that there could be life on Europa under its frozen shell; in the vast seas below the icy crust.
They estimate these oceans could be as deep as thirty miles.
Besides Mars, Europa is the only other place in the solar system where scientists seriously consider the possibility of life.
Volcanic activity could be a reason why colored material, as shown in the photographs, upwells and freezes in the subzero temperatures on the surface of Europa.
Nearby Io shoots ejecta from eruptions three hundred kilometers into space, as shown in one of the images.
NASA is already working on plans to send a spacecraft to Europa. This makes sense. If you are going to send out probes, you may as well try places in the solar system where the possibility of life exists. The latest probe they have in mind would use a nuclear-powered heater and drill to try and reach the oceans of Europa.
The frozen oceans of Europa are constantly shifting, moving, throwing up ice ridges hundreds, or perhaps thousands of feet high.
Sometimes the icy surface collapses into valleys that stretch for a thousand miles.
It's an active world.
And below its frozen surface lies the strong possibility of life.