22-EPN3-091: Evolution Under Radiation of Organics Pertaining to Europa
April 26, 2024

22-EPN3-091: Evolution Under Radiation of Organics Pertaining to Europa

Visit by Alexis Bouquet (Aix-Marseilles University, France) to TA2.11 Atomki Ice Chamber for Astrophysics / Astrochemistry (ICA) (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 19-24 February 2024

Report Summary: Several of the icy moons of Jupiter possess a liquid water ocean under a thick icy crust. In the especially promising case of Europa, a young surface (>100 Myr), and likely recent cryovolcanicactivity (within the last 8 years) imply the presence of ocean material on the surface. Therefore, observations performed by space missions could determine the ocean’s composition, and derive indications on its potential habitability (presence of chemical gradients providing metabolic energy, quantity and composition of available organic matter…). Characterising Europa’s ocean and its possible habitability requires to understand processes that alter organic and inorganic molecules in this environment. These processes include the processing by energetic ions coming from Jupiter’s magnetosphere and hitting the surface.

In this project, Alexis Bouquet visited the Atomki facility to study the effect of sulfur ion bombardment on methanol, a species that could be indicative of key characteristics of the ocean, pure and within an ice matrix. The alteration of the sample was followed using infrared spectroscopy, and the resulting complex organic residues were retrieved for ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry.

Full scientific report published by kind permission of Alexis Bouquet.