This material is based upon work supported
by the National Science Foundation
under Grant No. 0089071

Main Menu

Expedition Menu

1. Introduction
2. Early Clues
3. Plate Tectonics
4. Missing Heat
5. The Discovery
6. Diving with Ballard
7. Changed View
8. Symbiosis
9. Ocean Vents
10. Into the Future
11. Extreme Life
12. ET

Don Reed
Dept. of Geology
San José State



Modified from All Things Considered; Video of Hydrothermal Vent at Axial Volcano from NOAA's PMEL NeMO 2001 Video Clips and Europa, a Continuing Story of Discovery, NASA/JPL

Europa and how life begins?


Listen to NPR's Richard Harris report on some scientific findings of what it would take for life to begin elsewhere in the solar system. Pictures released of Jupiter's moon Europa suggest that the chemicals necessary for life may exist in large frozen oceans there -- just waiting for the right conditions to sprout life.


Europa, a moon of Jupiter, is volcanically active and may have an ocean below its ice-covered surface. Does Europa have hydrothermal vents—and life?l

(Photo by NASA Voyager)


Extraterrestrial Life?

Hydrothermal vents have shown that life can exist without sunlight or oxygen, in extreme conditions, by using chemical compounds as an energy source. This discovery jolted scientists into taking another look at the possibility of life on planets that previously seemed too hostile to support life.

By studying microbes in hydrothermal systems on Earth, scientists are learning how life may develop and survive in extreme environments on other planetary bodies. The vehicles, tools, sensors, and techniques that scientists are developing to study life within and beneath Earth’s volcanic seafloor crust will be similar to those that scientists will use to explore remote environments and search for life elsewhere in the universe.

In this new field called astrobiology, one of the most intriguing planetary bodies is Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Scientists believe Europa is volcanically active and may have an ocean below its ice-covered surface. The same ingredients—volcanic heat and water—form hydrothermal vents on Earth. Are there hydrothermal vents on Europa? Do they support life?

Mars was once volcanically active, and there is evidence that it once had abundant water. Did life develop on Mars? Do microbes still live deep beneath its dry, barren surface today? Can microbes be transported between planets—via meteorites, for example?


© Copyright 2004

Thanks for completing Expedition 13 in which you learned about discovery of life inside an underwater volcano and how these organisms depend on the geology, as well as each other factors, to sustain life under extreme conditions.

This is the last expedition covered on exam #1.

Remember to keep in touch if you having any questions on the material in this expedition or upcoming assignments in the course. Please post any questions on material in appropriate discussion area.

Remember that all answer keys and all expedition web pages will be removed from the course website when Exam #1 is available, check your greensheet for date and time of exam #1.

Exam #1 will cover material in Expeditions 5 through 13 and associated (and required) reading assignments. Please see Exam #1 review section on course website and Exam #1 review section in course workbook for information on the exam.

There is no completion word for this expedition, but students are welcome to send a Bye Don email, if they wish.


You may access the answer key by clicking on this link