from The Open University
Alternatively you can skip the navigation by pressing 'Enter'.
Life: PlantsThursday, 30th July 2015 11:00 - EdenAs ingenious as any animal... Read more: Life: Plants
A History of Ideas: Psychotherapist Mark Vernon on FreudThursday, 30th July 2015 12:04 - BBC Radio 4
Life: PlantsThursday, 30th July 2015 17:00 - Eden
Life: PlantsThursday, 30th July 2015 23:00 - Eden
A History of Ideas: Theologian Giles Fraser on AltruismAvailable until Wednesday, 27th July 2016 00:00Giles Fraser explains why our genes determine our concern for others. Read more: A History of Ideas: Theologian Giles Fraser on Altruism
Great Ormond Street Hospital: Fix my genesAvailable until Friday, 28th August 2015 02:45
A History of Ideas: Classicist Edith Hall on Aristophanes in PlatoAvailable until Wednesday, 27th July 2016 00:00
The Bank: LendingAvailable until Thursday, 27th August 2015 03:00
Introducing language and creativityOur short video gives a brief introduction to creativity - and explores its links with language. Watch now: Introducing language and creativity
Take the photographic memory testCan you capture scenes just by looking at them? Find out with our photographic memory test. Launch now: Take the photographic memory test
Beginners’ Italian: food and drinkThis free course, Beginners’ Italian: food and drink, focuses on buying drinks and snacks in an... Try: Beginners’ Italian: food and drink now
English: skills for learningThis course is for anybody who is thinking of studying for a university degree and would like to... Try: English: skills for learning now
Icy bodies: Europa and elsewhere
The new discipline of astrobiology – that is, the science of searching for...
The new discipline of astrobiology – that is, the science of searching for extraterrestrial life – is not only rapdly growing, but has also captured the public imagination. This unit examines the emergence of icy satellites of distant planets as potential sites of extraterrestrial life. Focussing on the case study of Jupiter's moon Europa, the unit looks at the potential for life there, and speculates on the ethics of searching for life elsewhere in the solar system.
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
- discuss processes upon and within, and internal structure of, differentiated icy bodies (primarily large satellites) in comparison with the terrestrial planets;
- describe the conditions that may be required to originate and foster life in an icy body and discuss the likelihood of their having occurred;
- recognise the moral and ethical issues of landing spacecraft on potential life-bearing worlds and appreciate the need for appropriate professional codes of conduct in this respect.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Icy satellites: introduction
- 2 Europa
- 3 Other icy bodies as abodes of life?
- 4 Unit summary
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn and track your progress. Make your learning visible!
Icy bodies: Europa and elsewhere
Until the 1980s, the icy satellites of the outer planets were scarcely thought of as places where life could ever have existed. Few could have imagined that one of them, Europa, would within twenty years have become the rival of Mars as a priority for astrobiological study. This unit recounts the history of our changing perceptions of the icy satellites, examines the available evidence for their internal structures, and considers the niches offered for life to begin and to be sustained. In this context, the ‘habitable zone’ embraces settings devoid of both sunlight and an atmosphere. These are areas where life could survive on the energy from chemical reactions made possible by the discharge of hot chemically enriched fluids through vents on the floor of an ocean capped by a thick layer of ice. Note that ‘ice’ does not necessarily mean just frozen water. In the outer Solar System, although H2O is usually the dominant component, ice can incorporate other frozen volatiles such as NH3, CO2, CO, CH4 and N2.
This unit is an adapted extract from the Open university course
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Friday, 13th May 2011
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
If you enjoyed this, why not follow a feed to find out when we have new things like it? Choose an RSS feed from the list below. (Don't know what to do with RSS feeds?)
Remember, you can also make your own, personal feed by combining tags from around OpenLearn.