Alien discovery: Subglacial Arctic lake could hold key to life on Europa and Titan | Science | News


Experts have discovered two subglacial lakes in the Canadian Arctic, which sit below more than 500 metres of ice in the Devon Island’s ice cap.

The scientists behind the discovery, who used radar technology, believe the temperature of the bodies of water would not be any warmer than -10.5 degrees celsius and that it would have a very high salt content which would prevent them from freezing.

In the past couple of years, researchers have also found evidence of these deep-lying subglacial lakes on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Titan.

By analysing the lakes here on Earth, scientists believe that they could find “unique” life which would point to evidence of there also being life on some of the moons of the Solar System, such as Titan and Europa.

Prof Martin Siegert from Imperial College London said: “To my knowledge, this is a unique lake system.

“Of the [more than] 400 subglacial lakes in Antarctica, all of them are thought to comprise fresh water.

“Hence, whatever might be living in it may also be unique.”

Dr Alison Murray of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute told BBC News: “The probability of life to exist in these systems is high, though the modelled temperatures might suggest that the biological activity would be severely limited due to the low temperature.”

Dr Claire Cousins from the University of St Andrews adds: “While the chemistry of these lakes may be somewhat different to ocean environments on icy moons such as Europa, their otherwise extreme conditions will help us understand the habitability of hypersaline sub-ice environments.”

NASA has previously announced that it plans to send a probe to Europa in the hope of finding alien life.

The mission could “determine whether or not we are alone in the universe,” according to a report from the space agency.

The study details three objectives from the potential mission; to discover whether there is, or has ever been, life on Europa, to assess whether the celestial body is habitable, and to analyse the surface of the moon for future missions.

NASA said in a report: “Europa may hold the clues to one of NASA’s long standing goals — to determine whether or not we are alone in the universe.

“The highest-level science goal of the mission presented here is to search for evidence of life on Europa.”

It added that the necessary equipment is ”expected to be available by 2024”.



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