Ocean acidification mooring deployments on Saturn’s moon, Europa, scheduled for 2023

Global ocean acidification monitoring efforts have greatly expanded over the last decade, with a myriad of new technologies produced to help scientists understand the effects of anthropogenic CO2 on ocean chemistry. This phenomenon has been documented in the world’s main ocean basins, with some time series sustained for several decades. Ocean chemists, astronomers, and engineers are now coming together to ask the next big question in ocean acidification research: can this process be measured in other ocean worlds, and if conditions are less acidic on other planets compared to Earth, might we be able to use other ocean planets as a proxy for palaeoceanographic studies?

The ET-OAMI (Extra Terrestrial Ocean Acidification Monitoring Initiative) has published its research plan to deploy twenty moorings around Saturn’s moon, Europa on 1 April 2023, each equipped with sensors for measuring temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pCO2, and pH. As Europa’s ocean is covered in a thick blanket of ice, the astronauts will drill through this 15-25km sheet prior to deploying the moorings. Astronauts will also try to collect discrete seawater samples from Europa for measurements of dissolved inorganic carbon, total alkalinity, as well as for detecting any microbial DNA. Could ocean acidification monitoring lead to humanity’s first glimpse at alien life forms?

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