UAF scientists use Gulkana Glacier for NASA research
University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) researchers are working on a NASA experiment to see if there could be life on one of Jupiter’s moons.
Scientists are testing special seismic equipment for the moon Europa. The moon has a water core but is covered with a thick layer of ice.
The seismic sensors would help them determine the thickness of the ice to see if there are any pockets of water that might contain life.
The team is comprised of scientists from UAF, the Lunar Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona, the Applied Physics Lab at the University of Washington, the University of Maryland and Silicon Audio Devices in Austin, Texas.
They simulated the conditions of Europa on the Gulkana Glacier an hour south of Delta Junction a few miles off the Richardson Highway.
Hop Bailey with the Lunar Planetary Lab in Arizona said this is the only field experiment of its kind NASA is funding.
Likewise, in Antarctica, in some of the most severe places in the ice, we find life. So, Europa is one of the few places in the solar system where we know it’s a protected source of water. So, the idea is under the thick layer of ice there’s liquid water and it could very well be a life habitat,” Bailey explained.
Because traditional seismic gear is too heavy to go into space, the team had to create special equipment that’s light enough and can withstand Europa’s high radiation.
Bailey said it’s crucial the seismic equipment works before they send it into space.
“You’re going to spend a lot of money getting to Europa and you’re going to spend a lot of money on a flight instrument that does seismology. You need to prove the technique is going to work before you get there,” Bailey said.