Prabal Saxena recently unveiled a bombshell study suggesting freezing worlds at the edge of our solar system may be able to host life. He said it was thanks to a process called tidal heating – the gravitational pull of moons creating warmth – that melts ice into liquid water crucial for life to survive.
The study targeted Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) including Pluto and Eris. But Saxena – who works at the space agency’s Goodard Space Flight Centre – believes the most likely hotspot for aliens lies on Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, where this process is also thought to occur.
The post doctoral fellow exclusively told Daily Star Online: “I think our best bet in our solar system would either be Europa or Mars, otherwise I think finding signatures on exoplanets, that is a potential option for life.
“I would think for Mars there may have been past life, but Europa is our best bet for present day life in our solar system. “I think there is more evidence that Europa has much more liquid water, I think that is such a fundamental key to life.”
And he may just be proven right in under a decade. NASA is planning to launch an spacecraft – dubbed the Europa Clipper – to the moon in the 2020s with a planned arrival following a “journey of several years”.
It will have a high-tech camera that zooms in on the surface to investigate alien lifeforms, and will conduct between 40 to 45 fly-bys of the world roughly 390,407,520 miles from ours. The agency said: “Europa has long been a high priority for exploration because it holds a salty liquid water ocean beneath its icy crust.
“The ultimate aim of Europa Clipper is to determine if Europa is habitable, possessing all three of the ingredients necessary for life: liquid water, chemical ingredients, and energy sources sufficient to enable biology.