Scientists have moved a step further in finding out whether alien life really does exist.
One place they’ve long believed life could be is on one of Jupiter’s 79 moons.
The moon in question is Europa – and there’s a very valid reason why.
Europa has water and oxygen, the essentials for sustaining life, as well as chemicals that could serve as nutrients.
But proving all this has been tricky for experts – mainly because we’ve never actually tested samples and can only rely on observations.
What’s more, Europa is home to ice-covered oceans believed to be about 15 miles thick and scientists suspect life may well be underneath.
How the oxygen gets past the huge ice for whatever lurks deep down to breathe has been left to scientific theory, but now a team have put together a model to show just how it could work.
They’re convinced saltwater within the icy shell could be transporting oxygen.
Building a physics-based computer simulation of the process, the oxygen basically hitches a ride on salt water under the moon’s “chaos terrains,” landscapes made up of cracks, ridges and ice blocks.
Their findings show that it’s not only possible but could mean Europa’s ocean has a similar amount of oxygen as the oceans back here on Earth.
“Our research puts this process into the realm of the possible,” said Professor Marc Hesse, from the University of Texas at Austin.
“It provides a solution to what is considered one of the outstanding problems of the habitability of the Europa subsurface ocean.”
Nasa is planning to send an orbiter called the Europa Clipper out in 2024, which could build on their findings.
“It’s enticing to think of some kind of aerobic organisms living just under the ice,” co-author Dr. Steven Vance added.
British Professor Monica Grady has previously said she believes we have a better chance of finding alien life on Europa than Mars, which tends to steal most of the focus.
And if there is, it could be octopus-like.
“I think we’ve got a better chance of having slightly higher forms of life on Europa, perhaps similar to the intelligence of an octopus,” she said.
The study was published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission.