Remember that image from a few weeks back that showed Earth with all its water gathered up in a sphere beside it? Well here's that image again, only this time, it also features Jupiter's moon Europa, along with all of its water. Notice anything interesting?
Based on data acquired by NASA's Galileo satellite, astronomers think the global oceans sloshing around beneath Europa's icy exterior are likely 2—3 times more voluminous than the oceans here on Earth. Not 2—3 times more proportionally, 2—3 times more in total volume.
Yeah. That "little" moon is packing quite the supply of H2O — and with it, scientists think, a significant chance of harboring life.
Looking at this image, I can't help but think back on what Michael Shara, curator in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, had to say when we spoke with him about Europa last November:
If we can figure out a way of putting a probe through [Europa's] ice — and the ice may be hundreds of yards thick, it could be very difficult to do this — but if we could put a probe down that could melt its way through the ice, and then send out little submarines, who knows what we could find down there. It would be fascinating to go look. I think we have no choice but to go look. We must do it.
Emphasis mine. Because hell yes, let's do it.
Illustration by Kevin Hand (JPL/Caltech), Jack Cook (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Howard Perlman (USGS); Spotted on NASA APOD