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    Vance, David B. 2014. Acid Mine Drainage, Rock Drainage, and Acid Sulfate Soils.

    Kereszturi, Akos and Keszthelyi, Zsolt 2013. Astrobiological implications of chaos terrains on Europa to help targeting future missions. Planetary and Space Science, Vol. 77, p. 74.

    Gleeson, Damhnait F. Pappalardo, R.T. Anderson, M.S. Grasby, S.E. Mielke, R.E. Wright, K.E. and Templeton, A.S. 2012. Biosignature Detection at an Arctic Analog to Europa. Astrobiology, Vol. 12, Issue. 2, p. 135.

    GLEESON, D. F. WILLIAMSON, C. GRASBY, S. E. PAPPALARDO, R. T. SPEAR, J. R. and TEMPLETON, A. S. 2011. Low temperature S0 biomineralization at a supraglacial spring system in the Canadian High Arctic. Geobiology, Vol. 9, Issue. 4, p. 360.

    Doc Richardson, C. Hinman, Nancy W. and Scott, Jill R. 2009. Effect of thenardite on the direct detection of aromatic amino acids: implications for the search for life in the solar system. International Journal of Astrobiology, Vol. 8, Issue. 04, p. 291.

    Chela-Flores, J. and Kumar, N. 2008. Returning to Europa: can traces of surficial life be detected?. International Journal of Astrobiology, Vol. 7, Issue. 3-4, p. 263.

    Chela-Flores, J. 2007. Testing the universality of biology: a review. International Journal of Astrobiology, Vol. 6, Issue. 03, p. 241.

  • International Journal of Astrobiology, Volume 5, Issue 1
  • January 2006, pp. 17-22

The sulphur dilemma: are there biosignatures on Europa's icy and patchy surface?

  • J. Chela-Flores (a1) (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 04 July 2006

We discuss whether sulphur traces on Jupiter's moon Europa could be of biogenic origin. The compounds detected by the Galileo mission have been conjectured to be endogenic, most likely of cryovolcanic origin, due to their non-uniform distribution in patches. The Galileo space probe first detected the sulphur compounds, as well as revealing that this moon almost certainly has a volcanically heated and potentially habitable ocean hiding beneath a surface layer of ice. In planning future exploration of Europa there are options for sorting out the source of the surficial sulphur. For instance, one possibility is searching for the sulphur source in the context of the study of the Europa Microprobe In Situ Explorer (EMPIE), which has been framed within the Jovian Minisat Explorer Technology Reference Study (ESA). It is conceivable that sulphur may have come from the nearby moon Io, where sulphur and other volcanic elements are abundant. Secondly, volcanic eruptions in Europa's seafloor may have brought sulphur to the surface. Can waste products rising from bacterial colonies beneath the icy surface be a third alternative significant factor in the sulphur patches on the Europan surface? Provided that microorganisms on Europa have the same biochemical pathways as those on Earth, over geologic time it is possible that autochthonous microbes can add substantially to the sulphur deposits on the surface of Europa. We discuss possible interpretations of the non-water-ice elements (especially the sulphur compound mercaptan) in the context of the studies for future missions. To achieve reliable biosignatures it seems essential to go back to Europa. Our work highlights the type of biogenic signatures that can be searched for when probing Europa's icy and patchy surface.

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International Journal of Astrobiology
  • ISSN: 1473-5504
  • EISSN: 1475-3006
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-astrobiology
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