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Thermal Diapirism and the Habitability of the Icy Shell of Europa

Ruiz Pérez, Javier and Montoya, Lilia and López, Valle and Amils, Ricardo (2007) Thermal Diapirism and the Habitability of the Icy Shell of Europa. Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 37 . pp. 287-295. ISSN 0169-6149

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Abstract

Europa’s chaos and lenticulae features may have originated by thermal diapirs
related to convective plumes. Warm ice plumes could be habitable, since their temperature
is close to the ice melting temperature. Moreover, thermal plumes intruding into the lower
stagnant lid warm several kilometers of country ice above 230 K for periods of 105 years,
and hundreds of meters above 240 K for periods of 104 years. Diapir coalescence
generating chaos areas should provide a large zone with temperature above ∼240 K for
thousands of years. A temperature above ∼230 K is potentially interesting for astrobiology,
since it corresponds to the lowest temperature at which microbial metabolic activity in
Antarctic ice has been reported. So, the warming by thermal plumes could cause an aureole
of biological activation/reactivation in the country ice. Adaptation of life to either high
salinity or low temperature is similar: it requires the synthesis of compatible solutes, like
trehalose or glycerol, which are efficient cryoprotectants. We therefore propose that the
future astrobiological exploration of Europa should include the search for compatible
solutes in chaos and lenticulae features.


Item Type:Article
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The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com

Subjects:Sciences > Geology > Geodynamics
ID Code:10506
Deposited On:23 Apr 2010 11:05
Last Modified:06 Feb 2014 08:44

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