I heard about an 'ocean' under Europa's ice surface and that there are higher temperatures.

Is it possible that there are amino acids or simple organic molecules like there was on the early Earth?

  • $\begingroup$ We don't know. Yet... $\endgroup$ Jul 25, 2013 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ Yes. it is possibble. do we know for sure? No, not until we get there $\endgroup$
    – user106
    Jul 25, 2013 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ I feel this question is out of scope here, because it asks for speculation or opinion on the existence of extraterrestrial life. While this is hugely important question, I am not sure it is appropriate here. Editing to rephrase the question about if life could survive, would bring it more in scope but then it would be a near duplicate of space.stackexchange.com/questions/96/… $\endgroup$ Jul 25, 2013 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ On the contrary, I feel that this topic is very good for this site, though this question could use some cleaning up. As it stands, it's not quite clear what you are asking, since your title is about simple life forms as a whole but your question text is solely about presence of organic molecules. $\endgroup$
    – Gwen
    Jul 26, 2013 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ @joe - Yes, it is. But this is a Q&A website and requires specificity, and questions that tend to invite primarily opinion based answers that can't possibly be substantiated with actual data are discouraged on grounds of avoiding prolonged, often no-resolve discussions. For example, I could post another answer and change the estimate of the first one from 0.5 to 0.8%, and you wouldn't have any objective way of telling which one to accept. Sometimes, speculation is acceptable, if we have enough data to draw a limited number of possible conclusions, but in this case, we simply don't. :( $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Jul 26, 2013 at 8:17

1 Answer 1


Since we've never discovered life outside our own planet there's really no basis to judge the likelihood of life on Europa. We just don't know how common life is, because we only have the one sample.

However, we do know that life can be found in some of the most extreme environments Earth has to offer. This leads us to believe that it's possible for life to survive in such an environment as Europa.

But how possible? We just don't have enough information yet to make a reasonable guess at that. Given the information we have, in our solar system alone there are about 175 natural satellites and planets (and that number is always growing), and only one of which has confirmed life. We might want to narrow it down to which bodies have at least the conditions where an extremophile could survive (and that's only if we're looking for Earth-like life) (or at least the top five?) (or those over 200 miles in diameter?). However even Earth life has shown that it can survive in vacuum, which opens up the list again to everything we can find in the solar system.

So, .5%?

  • $\begingroup$ Survive, yes. Develop or arrive? Very unlikely. Early Earth conditions were far more conductive to creation of life than these of Europa. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jul 26, 2013 at 10:19
  • $\begingroup$ I think arriving has potential, similar to the theory of life arriving to Earth via asteroid. $\endgroup$
    – House
    Jul 26, 2013 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ - minus size, minus gravity field of Jupiter and minus surviving long enough to adapt to the conditions. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jul 26, 2013 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ Likely? No. Possible? Yes. I'm in agreement with you. $\endgroup$
    – House
    Jul 26, 2013 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ Personally, I'm much more in favor of "development" theory. Many kilometers thick layer of aminoacid soup covering whole Earth and brewing for a billion years, these numbers do work in favor of a chance of something self-replicating appearing at random somewhere in there. Most of the volume of the ocean was conductive to creation of life. Nothing of that kind was present on Europa, developed life could adapt to survive but new life from scratch would require much friendlier conditions. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jul 26, 2013 at 14:16

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