Scientists have long suspected that beneath the cracked, icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa lies a vast ocean of liquid water, twice as large as the oceans on Earth. And that ultra-cold water may harbor alien life.

Today, we are one step closer to confirming if water flows on Europa.

A team of researchers confirmed this week in the esteemed pages of the journal Nature Astronomy what they learned more than three years ago: There is water vapor on Europa. And in the cosmos, water can mean life.

The scientists, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, detected 5,202 pounds of water being released from Europa’s surface per second on April 26, 2016, after observing the moon for 17 days during the period between February 2016 to May 2017.

The team used a spectrograph to measure frequencies of infrared light emitted from water molecules, and successfully detected water on one night out of 17 nights of observations of Europa.

Water is the third main ingredient of life in other worlds, after chemistry and a source of energy, and is the hardest to find on other celestial bodies besides Earth. 

A planned mission to the small moon, set for the year 2025 would confirm its habitability.

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