Huge lakes of water may exist under Europa's ice

By Phil Plait | November 17, 2011 11:52 am

We’ve known for years that Jupiter’s moon Europa almost certainly has an ocean of liquid water deep under its frozen surface. For one thing, the surface is almost all water ice. We also know that it’s covered in thousands of cracks that look very much like the type we see in ice floes floating on liquid water here on Earth. And we have a heating mechanism: tides from Jupiter as well as from the other moons flex Europa, causing its interior to warm up.

A nagging question has been how thick is the solid ice shell over that ocean: is it many kilometers thick, or much thinner? Evidence supports both arguments, which is maddening. However, that problem may now be solved: astronomers studying Europa’s terrain think the ice shell is generally very thick, but — and this is the cool part — may have vast underground lakes of water!

This picture is from observations of Europa made by the Galileo spacecraft, which orbited Jupiter for many years. It’s a combination of optical images and photoclinometry — using pictures to measure the heights of surface features. Purple and red is elevated terrain, and you can see that this looks like a depression in the surface. It’s filled with what’s called "chaotic terrain" for obvious reasons. Most of the surface of Europa has larger scale structure, and is more organized, as you might expect from a thick shell of ice. But these smaller regions are a mess, and it looks like this is from pockets of liquid water under the surface, giant lakes the size of North America’s Great Lakes, completely buried in the ice.

This artist’s view shows how this works; the lake is completely embedded in the ice shell. In general, the ice is very thick, explaining the usual look of Europa’s surface. But in some spots, just below the ice, the ice has melted. The ice above this underground lake is much thinner, perhaps only 3 km (about 2 miles) thick, explaining the chaotic surface in those localized spots.

That’s pretty nifty, but why is this so important? We know that on Earth, water is an essential ingredient for life. And we’ve known Europa has a lot of liquid water! But it’s locked under that thick shell. On the surface, sunlight has helped produce chemicals that are needed for biology, but there’s no way for them to get beneath that ice… or so we thought. The thinner ice above the lakes makes it possible for those chemicals to get below the surface, into the waters below. From there, various processes can get it down into the ocean itself.

And, just as interesting, the shape of the features above the spot pictured above (called Macula Thera) indicate the lake is still forming. It’s an ongoing process! That means that even today, right now, the chemistry for biological life is being produced and delivered to the waters underneath Europa’s surface. Mind you, this does not mean there is definitely life there! But the circumstances for life to arise may be better than we thought before.

It’s worth noting that Enceladus, a moon of Saturn that’s very similar to Europa, has geysers of water erupting constantly from its south pole. There’s some argument over whether Enceladus has pockets of liquid water or a global subsurface ocean; perhaps these findings from Europa will help resolve that dilemma as well.

This is very exciting news. It shows that the conditions for life may exist elsewhere in the solar system, of course. But in my mind what’s more important is that it shows us that we need to broaden our view of where we might consider life to be. Europa has been a prime candidate since the 1980s at least — it’s what prompted Arthur C. Clarke to use it for his novel "2010" (and made into the movie) — but the actual process of how life might arise there has been a problem. Now we have an entirely new idea on how is may occur.

What else is out there? What have we missed? Only by exploring, by looking, will we know. That’s the promise of science, and its greatest use: we can find things out.

Image credits: Paul Schenk/NASA; Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel VFX/Univ. of Texas at Austin


Related posts:

- Life’s cauldron may be bubbling underneath Enceladus
- Enceladus does and does not have a global ocean
- The Galilean Revolution, 400 years later

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Comments (60)

  1. So you could go ice fishing on top of a lake on top of an ocean.

  2. CR

    “All these worlds are yours except Europa. Attempt no landing there.”
    Okey-dokey, Monolith. We’ll go on to Enceladus, then.

    Seriously, now, this is really fascinating news. I hope that we can confirm this ASAP. Might a future flyby of Cassini’s past Enceladus be on the lookout for sub-ice lakes there?

  3. icewings

    What would be the best way to collect some of this sub-Europan water to see if it harbors life, without disrupting the whole (potential) ecosystem? It just seems that sending a probe to drill though the ice could throw the whole thing into imbalance. Is it even possible to remotely analyze the water there?

  4. Jupiter converted into a small star in 3… 2…

  5. Grimbold

    So how would these subsurface lakes even form?

  6. Grimbold, how about this mechanism? A warm upwelling melts the ice, and liquid water collects in the pocket thus formed. The upwelling stops and the ice then closes behind the pocket, trapping it.

    Sure, it sounds odd and unlikely, but we’re talking about the Jovian moons here. I’m always reminded of Haldane’s famous saying when I see something like this.

  7. The thing that bothers me about the prospect of life on or in Europa is this: what is the radiological environment like under the ice?

    Let’s assume there *is* an ocean. Let’s also assume that it’s not so oligotrophic as to render complex chemistry unlikely.

    Even so, will it not be saturated in ionizing radiation from the ginormous gas giant it’s busy orbiting? So that any complex bio-molecules that might hypothetically form are going to be continuously blasted into tiny bits, aren’t they?

    As I understand it, Jovian orbit is a /very/ unhealthy environment for organic life. I don’t think we’re ever going to be colonizing those moons without some kind of very fancy radiation shielding – unless we send genetically-modified colonists with a whole raft of tweaks acquired from /Deinococcus radiodurans/!

  8. Jeff

    I guess I am a chauvanist that Carl Sagan used to speak of, I will be so surprised if one of these really COLD moons will have life, ; seems to me earth is the correct goldilocks position with all the real bulk of life in the hot tropics of earth, earth’s heat was another essential ingrediant.

  9. Devin Baillie

    So, the water is hooked up. When can we move in?

  10. Turing

    Jeff, keep in mind that heat doesn’t always come from the sun. There are many places on Earth where the source of heat for life comes from volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean floor, so deep that sunlight doesn’t reach there. The same thing could easily happen on Europa.

  11. Sam H

    The thing I find most exciting is this – if the ice shell is thick, but there are pocket lakes only a few kilometers beneath the surface – then not only is there another environment for life, but also a new possible target for any future subsurface hydrobots, which would have been otherwise next to impossible (given the feat of penetrating over 30 km of ice). Our solar system is full of many strange, alien worlds, worlds that we can explore, potentially inhabit – and may be templates for the common types of planets spread throughout the galaxy.

    [insert any relevant Sagan quotes here; don't have the time :) ]

    As well, on a side note: IT WAS JUST CONFIRMED THAT I WILL BE GOING TO NYC WITH MY SCHOOL’S AWESOME DRAMA & CREATIVE ARTS DEPT. COME SPRING BREAK. I AM EXCITED BEYOND WORDS, AND WAS RECENTLY IN A STATE OF TREMBLY ECSTASY BECAUSE OF IT. START SPREADIN’ DA NEWZZZ ;) :D :D :D

  12. We have found life everywhere we have search it (in the earth). Maybe it will be the same in europa or in other places with liquid water and enought gravity.

  13. @Jeff,

    Look at all of the extreme places that life has been found on Earth. In the Antarctic, under tons of ice once thought to be too cold for life. In the deep sea near volcanic vents once thought to be too hot for life. In radioactive waste. They’ve even found microbes living deep within rocks. Basically, if it is at all possible, life finds a way to live in those conditions.

    Add in that complex building blocks for life have been found in space itself and more and more it looks like all of the “seeds” (so to speak) for life are whizzing around the Universe just waiting for the right spots to come together. Europa might be one of those spots. Even if life there is limited to single cell organisms, it would be possibly the biggest find of all time.

  14. Dave

    It may not be all that cold down there, Jeff. Tidal flexing generates heat that may result in Goldilocks zones all over Europa’s ocean floor, similar to hydrothermal vents here on Terra.

  15. jason

    If life were to be in the jovian moons, it would have developed there and be well suited to handle the radiation, or even use it for a life process. Just because our fragile little organic molecules can’t handle it, doesn’t mean that something else didn’t develop that can.

    After-all just here on earth we have bacteria that handle boiling water.

  16. Tristan

    Liam: three kilometres of ice is one heck of a radiation shield.

  17. eyesoars

    Radiation? Who’s worried about a little radiation? A few meters of ice should be plenty of shielding against radiation. A few kilometers down it wouldn’t even be a factor.

  18. Robin Byron

    Is it possible this is an impact crater? Thinking about it, I don’t believe I’ve ever read of any having been spotted on Europa or Enceladus.

  19. Dave

    “Only” 3 km, that’s still a long way for us to try to drill. We need to get on this, I’d love for us to discover extraterrestrial life before I die.

  20. Chris A.

    @Liam Proven:
    But water is a pretty effective radiation shield (especially kilometers of it)–that’s why one of the proposed designs for manned deep space vehicles features a shell of water surrounding the crew modules.
    As for radiation-resistant critters to borrow from, my vote is for the tardigrade (“water bear”)–they’re practically indestructible.

  21. @Robin Byron, that’s what I was thinking aswell, it would explain the below ground lake. Meteor hits and burrows below the surface, melting aswell as breaking the ice(not sure about the ices’ brittleness), the pieces floating in the top scatter and refreeze, heat that rises is now trapped. The ice cubes or debris that got pushed into the sublevel ocean seeks to fill the hole and freezes as the ocean temp. is lower than the newæy formed lake’s temp. And voila!

    Life, eh? Exciting but perhaps we may have to wait for nanotech to develop, that way we can send nanobots out to test the waters… Pun intended.

    Thanks for the great news though! I do love reading your articles, quite exciting.

  22. Michael Simmons

    As anyone modelled these oceans?
    These could be oceans of very concentrated sulphuric and hydrochloric acid. Not a place that is very friendly to life as we know it.

  23. Mary

    To me this is more than “Europa may contain life”. What is a possibility is that it once DID contain life (way long ago) – and then something happened – it got cold – really, really cold and destroyed everything. Which it is now slowly re-establishing. Wouldn’t that be cool! Oh by the way – I love your blog.

  24. Grand Lunar

    @19 Robin Byron
    I was thinking that too.
    Perhaps this is what happens to them?

    I would love to see a mission that sends a mini-sub through that ice to find out what’s there.

    And if it finds life, who knows?
    I only can imagine not only the scientific consequences, but the political and social ones as well.

  25. Wzrd1

    Consider the humblest places on Earth. Lake Vostok in Antarctica, deep under the ice, with life detected in the borehole already (they’re due to break through in December).
    Consider bacteria found thriving inside of the reactors at Chernobyl and other nuclear reactors.
    Consider the bacteria that thrive in black smokers under the crushing mass of the ocean and the thriving bacteria in Old Faithful.
    Considering how acidic black smokers are and the current theories that those were the origin points for life on Earth, I’d be shocked if EITHER moon was lifeless.

  26. Renee Marie Jones

    If there is anything alive there, then we have a moral obligation to leave it alone; we have no right there. I fear, however, that we do not have the moral compass to leave it alone. I fear for any life that might be there. I am sorry I cannot save it.

  27. Brian Schlosser

    @Renee Marie Jones: what gives us the moral right to look for life in extreme places on Earth?

    I think that any future expedition to look for life on Europa is going to have as its #2 priority be protecting any life that is found during the search.

  28. Infinite123Lifer

    For 28 Renee Marie Jones:

    That is a very interesting point. Ethics is . . . confusing as a species, to say the least.

  29. Responding to Devin Baillie’s comment “When do we move in?” First you will need a construction inspection, and a CO “certificate of Occupancy” and I can hear it now – the complaints “there goes the neighborhood!!!!”

  30. So, Reneé, are you saying that the search for extraterrestrial life is immoral?

  31. I’ve always been a fan of the thinner ice theories. Not that that is more likely or better science, it’s just more interesting.

    However, this is much cooler. My new favorite Europa vision.

    Now let’s go find out!

  32. Jess Tauber

    Given a closed volume, wouldn’t the shock of a large meteor strike (and wouldn’t these be rather common around the Jupiter region?) wipe out any advanced life inside Europa? Seriously though, it is clear to me that these lakes are just elevator platforms for the launch of the Europan Earth-invasion fleet. But we have a secret weapon they don’t know about- we’ll make them listen to the Republican Party debates!! They’ll be heading home with their heads and all three tails tucked between their tentacles, never knowing what hit them.

  33. Messier Tidy Upper

    @4. Kaeli : “Jupiter converted into a small star in 3… 2…”

    They’re late. That was scheduled for last year! ;-)

  34. OneofNone

    The first thing this small lake reminded me of was a volcano.

    You know, a huge supply of liquid stuff, rigid material on top of it as a shield or crust. Then there are some cracks, so the liquid can rise to a large chamber near the surface. Eventually it will get free?

  35. Joseph G

    @11 Sam H: The thing I find most exciting is this – if the ice shell is thick, but there are pocket lakes only a few kilometers beneath the surface – then not only is there another environment for life, but also a new possible target for any future subsurface hydrobots, which would have been otherwise next to impossible (given the feat of penetrating over 30 km of ice). Our solar system is full of many strange, alien worlds, worlds that we can explore, potentially inhabit – and may be templates for the common types of planets spread throughout the galaxy.

    That’s a great point: as well as chemicals being delivered down below the ice, as Phil said, these pockets might also carry life forms (or at least signs of life forms – alien seafloor worm poop?) close to the surface where they can be observed. Not only that, it’s likely the ice is weaker and porous in these areas, so even if the goal remains to send a hydrobot all the way down, these lakes may present sort of a shortcut :)

    As well, on a side note: IT WAS JUST CONFIRMED THAT I WILL BE GOING TO NYC WITH MY SCHOOL’S AWESOME DRAMA & CREATIVE ARTS DEPT. COME SPRING BREAK. I AM EXCITED BEYOND WORDS, AND WAS RECENTLY IN A STATE OF TREMBLY ECSTASY BECAUSE OF IT. START SPREADIN’ DA NEWZZZ ;) :D :D :D

    Hehe, congrats!

    [insert any relevant Sagan quotes here; don't have the time :)
    Allow me:

    The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. From this shore we have learned most of what we know. Recently we have waded our way out, maybe ankle deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows, this is where we came from. We long to return; and we can.

    –Dr. Carl Sagan, Cosmos, episode 1

  36. Peter Davey

    I am reminded of a comment from “The Science of Discworld”, by Terry Pratchett (of course), and scientists Jack Cohen, and Ian Watson:

    “Life will evolve everywhere it can – and everywhere it can’t.”

    Perhaps we can soon start putting the comment to the test.

  37. @17 Tristan: Exactly what I was thinking. Water, frozen or not, is an excellent radiation shield. It’s relatively dense, and yet it contains a lot of hydrogen, which keeps any secondary radiation to a minimum. I wouldn’t be surprised if 100 meters of water is all you’d need to stop any radiation the system can throw at you (IIRC, a rule of thumb when planning moon bases was that about 10 meters of water as shielding would give you approximately Earth sea-level cosmic ray levels).

    @34 Jess Tauber: Given a closed volume, wouldn’t the shock of a large meteor strike (and wouldn’t these be rather common around the Jupiter region?) wipe out any advanced life inside Europa?

    That’s the beautiful part, and is one of the reasons why life on Europa, while it seems crazy at first, begins to make sense the more you think about it (see the above comment re radiation). Now, I can’t really comment on the shockwave issue, but as for other stuff… When you look at the mechanisms behind mass extinctions on Earth caused by bolide impacts, most of them just don’t apply to life on Europa. For instance:
    –Diminished sunlight (no atmosphere to gunk up, and even if there were, who cares?)
    –Tidal waves (no land critters)
    –Acid rain (no nitrogen atmosphere to yield nitric acid)
    –Long-term warming from CO2 released from rocks (obviously not an issue)
    –Destroyed ozone layer (not present or needed)
    –Firestorms caused by secondary debris re-entering the atmosphere (no free oxygen, and 30 klicks of ice between you and the hot stuff, and also little or no secondary debris from Europa itself, just the impactor)….

    Chemotrophic seafloor life would be a tough bastard to hurt :) I’m not saying a K/T type impact wouldn’t cause havoc, but I’d hazard a guess that if life on Earth could survive it, life on Europa definitely could.

    Seriously though, it is clear to me that these lakes are just elevator platforms for the launch of the Europan Earth-invasion fleet. But we have a secret weapon they don’t know about- we’ll make them listen to the Republican Party debates!! They’ll be heading home with their heads and all three tails tucked between their tentacles, never knowing what hit them.

    Sheesh, let’s just give ‘em smallpox blankets while we’re at it!! Sure, we on Earth are relatively resistant to the brain-destroying effects of GOP acoustic radiation, but on an unprepared species, it could turn them into vegetables! Can you say “war crime”? :-P

  38. I think Juno is a waste of taxpayer’s money. We should be going right there, drill down and find out about whether there is life or not.

  39. Jess Tauber

    Joseph G- The impactor would significantly change the temperature of the internal ocean, so if life were already adapted to that, then a really bad hair day ensues. Ice melting, and meteorite dissolving change the water’s chemical composition- not great for developing bodies. According to what I’ve been reading about changes to earth’s oceans over its geological history just due to episodes of volcanic activity (anoxic events- see Wiki), these things can spell doom for established ecosystems (whether or not they can read). Sure there may be refugia, and life in some form might survive, but forget about their next Olympics….

  40. @41 Jess Tauber: Those are some good points. For one thing, all that energy does have to go somewhere. Even if it’s widely dispersed, it could still be enough to cause carnage. On Earth, even a couple of degrees temperature rise can really f*** up certain species. Also, Europa is much smaller then Earth, so even “localized” effects are going to cover a pretty big chunk (possibly all) of Europa’s (sub)surface.
    That Wiki link (anoxic event) was fascinating. And terrifying. I’ve heard of anoxic dead zones, but the whole darned ocean!?

  41. Jess Tauber

    What gets me is how closely linked all these things are- on earth you have geological plate tectonics moving things around, creating mountain uplift and so riverine material transport of nutrients moving to sea, deposition of waste products and dead bodies into vulnerable positions that can be affected later as by volcanic activity which throws carbon and gases back into the atmosphere, changing ocean and atmospheric pH, altering rates of rock erosion by rain and so on- a big set of interconnected energy-mass cycles that can change their tempos on the skimpiest of pretexts. For all we know Europa already has colder versions of all this internally- add the odd space-rock and we get tons of fun.

  42. flip

    Phil, the link in the third last paragraph is incorrect and sends to a 404 error page…

    Surprised no one else picked that up!

  43. Any more discussion on the actual mechanism that caused this? I would guess a thermal plume, but then I’m not an expert on Europa, and would rather have someone who knows answer this.

    http://astronomy.stackexchange.com/questions/1491/liquid-water-in-mid-ice-on-europa-mechanism

  44. @47 Larian: You’re probably right, but as per the stuff Jess and I were talking about, wouldn’t it be cool if this were the result of an impact? Melted ice filling in the crater and freezing over?
    Ok, it’s unlikely, but I just saw Melancholia, and I’m in a catastrophe-ey mood :)

  45. Jess Tauber

    OTOH if we look at Venus we see massive resurfacing because internal heat cannot escape more gradually through tectonic processes (which seem to require WATER to lubricate the deep rock movement, loosen up the magma and so on). So we know that Europa doesn’t have the problem of too little water, but for lower energy tectonics maybe the ice needs something that reduces the melting temperature too, the way we add salt to the roads to melt winter ice. Yet freezing water tends to divest itself of most solutes to some extent, which stiffens the ice. The ocean inside is supposed already to be pretty rich in simple solutes. Wonder if internal heat from orbital dynamics has to rise to some tipping point to hit the surface all at once. Or it may be less global. So does Europa have the icy equivalent of the Deccan Traps?

  46. Scott

    We are spending billions to find something/life elsewhere instead of focusing on saving and fixing our issues here – on the only habitable place known. Those billions and all those scientific minds should be working on getting us all off greenhouse gases, curing disease, solving social issues and working on making this a more stable planet. Everyone is too obsessed with life out there while life here is in trouble.

    I dont think anything exists in the Europa system. Even if it did…we will never live on it, walk on it, explore or colonize it. Interesting yes, but we should be focusing on expoloring and preserving our planet.

    We have this fantasy of finding another world to explore, exploit and move to…its in our genes.

  47. flip

    @Scott, #50

    You’ve come up with a false dichotomy. Did it ever occur to you that we could do both? Or indeed, that technology created for space can help solve problems here on Earth? (Conservation, recyclying, invention of new fuels, etc. All things done in space)

    Besides which, understanding how other planets, moons, etc work may just help us understand our own.

    Today the webcomic XKCD put out a great graph of how money is spent in the US. I recommend taking a look at it; the amount spent by for space exploration is extremely small compared to what is spent on social security and other things. It’s an eye-opener and space is not even comparable to some of the crap we spend on things. Wars for instance…

  48. @Flip#51

    I completely agree with you. And also, we could colonize other planets if they were found suitable. Just take a look at the movie avatar, and realize that that could be us someday.

    By the way, have you seen the picture of the skull found in Peru? It could be a child’s skull, but it could also have been an extra terrestrial being because it had molars, something no child ever has. So don’t EVER rule out extra terrestrial life until you have certain PROOF.

  49. @52 Lilly: Because the skull belonging to a kid with a minor gene mutation causing early molar development is so much less likely a scenario then that being an extraterrestrial’s skull (extraterrestrials which are built exactly like humans, but with childhood molars).

    Also, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong about children not having molars. Or are you talking about newborns?

  50. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Joseph G & Lilly : If that’s the skull I think we’re talking about, then I’m pretty sure it was from an indigneous tribal culture with an odd cosmetic / religious practice of binding the head to make it much longer. Saw a TV doco on it once.

    @28. Renee Marie Jones : November 17th, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    If there is anything alive there, then we have a moral obligation to leave it alone;

    We do? Do we? Says who? Why?

    I disagree with you there. Humans have the potential to explore and learn and discover – and protect and nurture too. We diminish and fail to fulfill our potential, fail to accomplish and learn and understand if we do as you suggest there.

    Of course, we should – and will – be careful about how we do investigate possible life elsewhere such as on Europa.

    we have no right there.

    Agian, really? Says who? Why? Who are *you* to decree what “rights” the rest of us have?

    Now if you were a Monolith it just might be different! ;-)

    I fear, however, that we do not have the moral compass to leave it alone. I fear for any life that might be there. I am sorry I cannot save it.

    I’m glad you’re not in charge. I think you need to consider being more humble and make less assumptions when it comes to your perceived “moral compass” making you better than anyone else.

    @29. Brian Schlosser :

    I think that any future expedition to look for life on Europa is going to have as its #2 priority be protecting any life that is found during the search.

    Yep indeed. We’re already taking special precautions – for example deliberately sending the Galileo spaceprobe into Jupiter to burn up at the end of its operational life so as to avoid accidentally transferring any terrestrial life to Europa. We’re planning to do the same thing to Juno too when it’s mission finishes. All spaceprobes bound for possible abodes of life are sterilised and great care and consideration is being taken on this point.

  51. Sion

    I hate to put a downer on things, but the presence of a liquid ocean on
    Europa is far from proven. There is a theory with enough weight behind it to cast a reasonable level of doubt on things, that of a layer of convective slush. I, personally, go with the liquid hypothesis, but let’s not all act as if it is proven one way or the other just yet.

  52. flip

    @Lilly, 52

    I agree with you up until you started talking about Peruvian skulls (and Avatar, but that’s a different issue and not worth writing about here). We sceptics say “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. You have it backwards: we should be assuming that no alien lifeforms have visited Earth, *until* good evidence is discovered that says otherwise. This is the principle of parsimony and a cornerstone of good science. You on the other hand suggest we should assume wild things based on little to no evidence. Something that looks conveniently ‘alien’ doesn’t prove it is an alien; it only proves it is outside of your own realm of experience or knowledge. Whilst most people will agree that the probability for alien life is relatively high, that does not mean that it actually does exist; only when we have incontrovertible proof of its existence can we say aliens exist, and even then, it would not prove that aliens have visited Earth as that’s a separate issue. Joseph G in comment 53 states this more succinctly, but basically, I very much doubt anyone has found any evidence for alien life on Earth.

  53. @ flip #56,

    I never did actually say that extrat terrestrials do exist. I was just making the point that it is possible for extra terrestrials to exist. Also, I was merely pointing out that alien life has been “claimed” to be found, and the scientists are performing a DNA test on the remains of the eyeball in a socket. Whether the mummy is extra terrestrial, we should know pretty soon. However, I never said that aleins do exist.

  54. flip

    @Lilli, #57

    Sorry if I jumped to conclusions there, but your comment

    So don’t EVER rule out extra terrestrial life until you have certain PROOF.

    kind of implied that you assumed ET to exist, and are simply waiting for evidence to turn up to disprove the idea, which of course, is backwards to how science works.

    Anyway, why immediately assume the skull is being tested for alien stuff? Isn’t it better to assume that the skull is simply of unknown terrestrial species, and that the DNA test is being done in order to discover what species it is? (Assuming that the people getting the tests done are not working from the alien hypothesis already and are simply looking for confirmation of their own, likely false, idea)

    Of course, again, the possibility can’t be ruled out, but that doesn’t mean that you immediately assume that if something is unknown we *must* include aliens as a possible answer. We first must rule out unknown but terrestrial phenomena first; just like with UFOs. – Unless of course, extraordinary evidence is to be found.

    Maybe I misunderstood your point, but then, I’m not quite sure what point you are making. If it’s just to be open-minded, well, that’s what good science is all about and most here will agree with you. If it’s something else, then please elucidate.

  55. Brian Too

    @36. OneofNone,

    I thought the same thing. There’s no reason I can see that this lake might not be the analog for a magma chamber here on Earth. As long as the water is warm enough it can melt the ice crust. There might even be water volcanoes on the surface, lava (water) tubes, and all the other features of volcanism/tectonics found here. Imagine fault lines, subduction zones, ice quakes, uplift regions…

  56. gwilllis

    Getting through the ice is no problem. Just lob a few thermonuclear bombs (I think we may have a few left-over ones sitting around) down on one of them there “lakes” and see what happens.

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