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The Promise of Europa

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As far as we know, life can't exist without water. Where you find water in the universe, you just might find life as well. Imagine the excitement when scientists found evidence hinting that Europa may have a global ocean of liquid water beneath its icy surface.

Take this quiz and test your knowledge of Europa. Find out why scientists think the water is there, and what it could mean to the future of astrobiological studies.

1) Which planet does Europa orbit? Planets and moons

2) What is the surface appearance of Europa like? Europa
Coarse mountain terrain with extreme volcanic activity.
Rolling plains occasionally interrupted by cratered highlands.
Densely populated with Europeans.
Smooth flat, and reflective.

3) What is the surface temperature of Europa? The surface of Europa
260 degrees Fahrenheit below zero
1000 degrees Fahrenheit
36 degrees Celsius
17 degrees Fahrenheit below zero

4) NASA scientists hope to launch an orbiter to explore the geography of Europa before the end of the decade. Why would it be one of the hardest missions NASA has ever undertaken? Computer visusalization of possible Europa orbiter.
Heavy radiation in Europa's atmosphere
Jupiter's gravitational pull
Europa's incredible distance from Earth
All of the above

5) What is the name of the "life detector" NASA is developing to assist scientists in the search for life forms on Europa? NASA's 'life detector'

6) What is the name of the space probe that in the 1990s returned evidence that there may be a liquid ocean on Europa? Close-up of Europa's surface

7) What in particular led scientists to believe that there is a liquid ocean beneath Europa's ice surface? The surface of Europa
Cracks on the smooth surface of the planet are similar to the cracks in Antarctic ice on Earth.
Galileo observed liquid tidal movement on Europa's surface through his telescope in 1610 after the initial discovery of Jupiter's 16 moons.
Recently NASA landed an unmanned probe on Europa which was able to drill through several miles of thick crust of ice revealing liquid water.
Geologists studying the surface of Europa through a gigantic telescope have spotted geysers of water spurting from ice fissures.

8) If scientists discover an ocean below Europa's surface, which of the following would NOT be an indicator that Europa could harbor extra-terrestrial life? Ice floes on the surface of Europa.
There is a thick surface layer of ice which would protect organisms in the ocean below from deadly radiation.
Hints of thermal exchange occur at the cracks in the surface, causing resources from the surface to mix with the warmer water below.
There are plentiful resources in the form of ice and the ocean below.
Europa's close proximity to the sun allows photosynthesis among micro-organisms and plants.

9) How long could a human wearing a protective suit survive atmospheric radiation on the surface of Europa? A man in a NASA space suit standing in the desert.
3 years
2 months
36 hours
1–3 hours


10) What is the origin of Europa's name? A carved bust of a famous scientist of old.
Simon Marius, a scientist who noticed the moon around the same time as Galileo, gave the satellite the mythological name.
NASA scientist, Paul Bowler, named the newly discovered moon to celebrate the European Union.
The letters E-U-R-O-P-A are scratched into the moon's icy surface.
Isaac Newton named it after his favorite continent.