Years of research and surface scanning by satellites have reveled that one of Jupiter's moons, Europa, may be a prime candidate to host extraterrestrial life. The surface of the planet is covered by ice that is 10 miles deep, but many scientists agree that under the ice is liquid water, possibly extending 60 miles down, warmed by tidal currents. If life can exist deep in our oceans, could it be thriving here?
On Earth, researchers have spent time studying extremely cold environments to understand how liquid water can be maintained rather than freezing. Visitors can see some of the work being done at Lake Vostok in Antarctica, where a liquid lake lies under nearly 4000 meters of ice. Visitors can then use a comprehensive cross section model to see what scientist believe is under the icy seas of Europa.
How does water stay liquid in the presence of extremely cold conditions? Through constant movement. Visitors can try a hands on simulation by artist Ned Kahn that demonstrates the process of warm water slowly rising and mixing with cold water to create complex patterns as the cold water sinks. Glass micro-beads of blue and white demonstrate the process in a unique visualization.
Europa's surface is made of ice and has many lines running through it that have helped scientists piece together the possible movements of the ice sheets over time. Visitors can try a hands on puzzle where matching pieces together simulates the puzzle scientists had when retracing Europa's history.