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Astrobiology. 2003 Winter;3(4):851-61.

Locating potential biosignatures on Europa from surface geology observations.

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Department of Geological Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-1404, USA.


We evaluated the astrobiological potential of the major classes of geologic units on Europa with respect to possible biosignatures preservation on the basis of surface geology observations. These observations are independent of any formational model and therefore provide an objective, though preliminary, evaluation. The assessment criteria include high mobility of material, surface concentration of non-ice components, relative youth, textural roughness, and environmental stability. Our review determined that, as feature classes, low-albedo smooth plains, smooth bands, and chaos hold the highest potential, primarily because of their relative young age, the emplacement of low-viscosity material, and indications of material exchange with the subsurface. Some lineaments and impact craters may be promising sites for closer study despite the comparatively lower astrobiological potential of their classes. This assessment will be expanded by multidisciplinary examination of the potential for habitability of specific features.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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