Scientists "Discover" Source
of Europa's Dark Cracks -- 20 years
After Hoagland


Two views of Europa. Natural color, left, and enhanced color, right.

For more than 20 years, ever since Voyager sent back the first images, scientists have puzzled over the enigmatic dark cracks and stains that spot the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. While the cracks themselves are fairly easy to explain -- they are the result of the tidal forces of Jupiter's gravity squeezing and cracking the tiny moon's thin ice crust (over a deep free flowing liquid ocean) -- conventional science has been at a loss to explain away the dark coloration.

A new story appearing in the recent issue of New Scientist Magazine purports to offer a "new" explanation for the reddish-brown color of of the dark cracks in Europa's icy surface. In the story, Astrogeophysicist Brad Dalton is described as asking a colleague at Yellowstone National Park to provide him with infrared spectra of the so called "extremophile" bacteria that live in the various steam vents and pools there, just on a "lark." By golly, when comparing the IR spectra of the of the Yellowstone bacteria to the IR spectra of the dark cracks on Europa, Dalton found an excellent match.

This new finding is especially interesting in light of the fact that the current conventional model is that the dark discolored spots are the result of a mixture of magnesium sulphate and other inert chemicals. If Dalton's finding is correct, then it could imply that dark stains are in fact something entirely different -- living organisms -- or at least their frozen, fossilized remains.

Some of this may sound familiar, and it should. Exactly this prediction was made over 20 years ago by Enterprise Mission principal investigator Richard C. Hoagland in his ground breaking article for the January 1980 issue of Star and Sky magazine, "The Europa Enigma." At that time -- well in advance of any other viable theories and despite harsh criticism from the scientific community -- Hoagland proposed that there must be a life bearing ocean of salt water beneath Europa's icy crust, one that was almost certain to have advanced and complex life forms in its warmer nether regions (based on the then-new discovery of the first "extremophiles" at the bottom of the Pacific ocean). He went on to suggest (See pages 28, 29, and 30 of the original magazine) that the cracks were the result of tidal stresses and that the dark stains were organic material that had been ejected from the upper layers of this planet-wide ocean and then frozen on the icy surface.

The New Scientist article makes the same claim, but of course entirely without attribution of Hoagland's original work (cited by Squyres et. al in their 1983 paper "On the habitability of Europa"). Hoagland also proposes a specific mechanism for the ejection of the organic material, while the New Scientist article merely discusses how they could be ejected in "some kind of eruption and flash frozen."

This sort of revisionist history is not really surprising, the science mainstream and their enablers in the dominant media culture have made Hoagland a "non-person" for years. But rest assured, this idea is not Dalton's, but Hoagland's, and we will make sure that his findings give proper atribution when they are presented at the Lunar and Planetary Conference next year.