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Planetary Scientists Featured on National Geographic Channel


Richard Greenberg and Peter Smith will discuss the possibility of life on Europa and Mars.

By University Communications March 29, 2010

Imagine a frozen world with no atmosphere, circling around a giant planet with gravitaional forces so strong they work up heat inside the small celestial body, much like a ball of Play-Doh is squeezed by an eager child's hand.

Welcome to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons and a prime candidate for alien life, which will be explored in the upcoming feature, "Hunt for Aliens," which is part of National Geographic Channel's "Naked Science" series.

University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Sciences Professor Richard Greenberg, one of the world's leading authorities on Europa, will discuss the possibility of alien life forms that might roam Europa's hundred-mile deep ocean.

Jupiter's enormous gravitational forces hold Europa in a tight grip and generate enough energy to allow this ocean of liquid water to exist under the moon's icy shell.

"The key here is the ice cap, which is far from static," Greenberg explains. "It is broken up into numerous ice flows, and water rises up in the cracks between them. If there were life on Europa, it would be most interesting to look at those places where the ice and the liquid water meet."

Peter Smith, also of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the principal investigator for the Phoenix Mars Mission, will appear on "Hunt for Aliens" as well and speak about the potential of Mars to have harbored life at some point and the scientific endeavors aiming at unraveling that history.

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