NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
Europa has a thick layer of ice that scientists have long believed covers an ocean of liquid water.
The presence of liquid water makes Europa one of the most potentially habitable places in our solar system.
And now a new study shows evidence that this ocean contains carbon dioxide.
Carbon, also called a biosignature, is an organic molecule that is fundamental to the building blocks of life as we know it.
Other biosignatures consist of hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, among others.
The new discovery was made by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
The instrument can identify chemicals like carbon based on the infrared wavelengths they emit.
Furthermore, the carbon dioxide does not appear to come from a foreign body such as a meteorite or asteroid.
“Previous observations with the Hubble Space Telescope show evidence of ocean-derived salt in Tara Regio,” planetary scientist Samantha Trumbo of Cornell University said in a statement opinion.
“Now we see that carbon dioxide is highly concentrated there too.”
“We believe this suggests that the carbon likely had its ultimate origin in the inner ocean.”
Researchers identified signs of both crystalline and amorphous carbon dioxide on Europa.
However, since carbon dioxide is hardly found on Europa’s surface, researchers assume that it comes from the ocean.
Scientists plan to conduct further research on Europa, with NASA expected to launch its Clipper mission in 2024.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency launched the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft in April.
The instrument is expected to arrive in Jupiter’s orbit around 2031.
In the meantime, JWST will continue to record further observations of the gas giant and its mysterious moons.