The Open University since 2006
Alternatively you can skip the navigation by pressing 'Enter'.
Frozen Planet: AutumnTuesday, 24th May 2016 09:00 - EdenTime is running out for the creatures at the Poles Read more: Frozen Planet: Autumn
Old School With The Hairy Bikers: EPISODE 3Available until Friday, 24th June 2016 00:00With only four weeks left at the Oxford Academy, we look to see how the old and young have learned from each other. Read more: Old School With The Hairy Bikers: EPISODE 3
Thinking Allowed 2016: Glasgow gangs - Russian gangsAvailable for over a year
Shakespeare Speaks: Cruel to be kindAvailable until Monday, 20th June 2016 00:00
Old School With The Hairy Bikers: EPISODE 2Available until Saturday, 18th June 2016 19:30
Life - with David AttenboroughDavid Attenborough explores the vibrant mix of life found on our plant - where it comes from, and... Read more: Life - with David Attenborough
The UK's EU Referendum - In or Out?What is the UK's EU Referendum? What will it mean if we are 'in' or 'out'? Learn more about trade... Read more: The UK's EU Referendum - In or Out?
Constitutions in transitionThis free course, Constitutions in transition, explores and compares the development of four... Try: Constitutions in transition now
Introduction to bookkeeping and accountingLearn about the essential numerical skills required for accounting and bookkeeping. This free... Try: Introduction to bookkeeping and accounting now
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 free course, Icy bodies: Europa and elsewhere, examines the emergence of icy satellites of distant planets as potential sites of extraterrestrial life, looks at the potential for life on Jupiter's moon Europa, and speculates on the ethics of searching for life elsewhere in the solar system.
After studying this course, 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?
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. 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 course 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 OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course S283.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 16th March 2016
Last updated on: Wednesday, 16th March 2016
- 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 and our FAQs 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.
All our alternative formats are free for you to download, for more information about the different formats we offer please see our FAQs. The most frequently used are Word (for accessibility), PDF (for print) and ePub and Kindle to download to eReaders*.
- Word (4.2 MB)
- PDF (5 MB)
- ePub 3.0 (3.4 MB)
- ePub 2.0 (3.4 MB)
- Kindle (1.6 MB)
- RSS (418 KB)
- HTML (3.1 MB)
- SCORM (3.1 MB)
- OUXML Package (53 KB)
- OUXML File (170 KB)
- IMS Common cartridge
*Please note you will need an ePub and Mobi reader for these formats.