Event Details

Robots Under Antarctica, and One Day in Space 

Europa is one of the most enticing targets in the search for life beyond Earth. With an icy outer shell hiding a global ocean, Europa exists in a dynamic environment where immense tides from Jupiter potentially power an active deeper interior and intense radiation and impacts bathe the top of the ice, providing sources of energy that could sustain a biosphere. But with perhaps 30 km of ice between the surface and the ocean, how do we tell what is happening down there, and how might we one day explore it?

Beneath ice shelves on Earth, interactions between the ice and the ocean are important elements of the climate system and may be similar to how processes work on Europa. Thus exploring the cryosphere can form the foundation of our understanding of other ocean worlds and a test bed for their exploration. 

In this presentation, Britney Schmidt, Associate Professor of Astronomy and Earth & Atmospheric Science, will explore environments on Europa and their analogs here on Earth.  NASA will launch the Europa Clipper Mission in October 2024, but while we wait to get there, we are looking to our own cosmic backyard to help us to better understand this enigmatic moon.  Dr. Schmidt will describe her team’s work in Antarctica using under ice AUV/ROV Icefin built by her research team. With a cross-disciplinary suite of in situ instruments, Icefin allows us to spatially constrain ocean and ice conditions, and provide information on the ecosystems below the ice, informing the evolution of the Earth’s climate as well as teaching us how to think about Europa.  Using this new robotic capability, we are working to gather unique new data and develop techniques for together exploring the Earth and one day Europa, an ice-covered world not so unlike our own.