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A crater on Europa. Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Finding indicators of life on Jupiter's icy moon Europa will likely be more complicated than just taking snapshots of the world's surface, a new study suggests.

Why it matters: Europa is thought to be one of the best places to search for life in the solar system, with its subsurface ocean that could be habitable, but scientists are learning more about just how difficult it might be to actually find those signs of life.

What they found: The new study — published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy — suggests parts of Europa's surface, down to about 12 inches below it, have been disrupted by impacts over tens of millions of years.

  • It's possible this "impact gardening" could churn signs of life up to the surface where they would then be destroyed by radiation.
  • “If we hope to find pristine, chemical biosignatures, we will have to look below the zone where impacts have been gardening,” Emily Costello, an author of the new study and researcher at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, said in a NASA statement.
  • Impact gardening on Europa has been studied before, but the new study makes use of specialized modeling that takes material raining back down onto the moon after an impact into account as well.

What to watch: In 2024, NASA is planning to launch a mission called Europa Clipper on flybys of the moon, so learning more about its potential habitability now will help focus that mission's goals and methods.

Go deeper: Where Europa's water lives

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 22, 2021 - Technology

Microsoft debuts new Surface hardware

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft unveiled updates to its Surface line, including laptops, convertible tablets and an improved versions of its Android-based dual screen Surface Duo.

Why it matters: The new devices come ahead of Windows 11's official launch on Oct. 5.

33 mins ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to form team to solve consulate dispute

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meet in Washington. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel are planning to form a joint team to hold discreet negotiations on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The consulate handled relations with the Palestinians for 25 years before being shut down by then President Donald Trump in 2019. Senior officials in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government see the consulate issue as a political hot potato that could destabilize their unwieldy coalition.