Recently published research in astrophysics suggests that some moons of exoplanets — planets beyond our solar system — are the right size, in the right position and have sufficient water to support life.

Dirk Schulze-Makuch
Dirk Schulze-Makuch

WSU astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch responded to the research findings, saying: “Everyone right away tends to categorically exclude the possibility of life on Io.” Conditions on Io might have made it a friendlier habitat in the distant past. If life did ever develop on Io, there is a chance it might have survived to the present day, Schulze-Makuch suggested.

“Life on the surface is all but impossible, but if you go down further into the rocks, it could be intriguing,” he said. “We shouldn’t categorize it as dead right away just because it’s so extreme.” Computer models suggest Io formed in a region around Jupiter where water ice was plentiful. Io’s heat, combined with the resulting possibility of liquid water, could have made life plausible. “There must have been quite a lot of water on Io shortly after formation, judging from the amount of water ice on Europa and Ganymede,” said Schulze-Makuch.

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