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STScI Astrobiology Lecture Series

Getting Under Europa's Skin: Radar, Robots and the Search for Life beyond Earth

Presented by: Britney Schmidt  (Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
Category: Science Colloquia   Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes   Broadcast date: April 01, 2016
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Europa is one of the most enticing targets in the search for life beyond Earth. With an icy outer shell hiding a global ocean, Europa exists in a dynamic environment where immense tides from Jupiter potentially power an active deeper interior and intense radiation and impacts bathe the top of the ice. These processes are sources of energy that could sustain a biosphere. In this presentation, we will explore environments on Europa and their analogs here on Earth. NASA will launch a mission to Europa in 2021, but while we wait to get there, we are looking to our own cosmic backyard, Antarctica, to help us to better understand how Europa works. I will describe our work on the McMurdo Ice Shelf using ice penetrating radar and under ice robotics to study ice-ocean interactions and exchange in this Europa-like environment, and to develop techniques for exploring Europa as an ice covered world not so unlike our own.