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Life in Sub Ice Lakes

There is increasing evidence of large bodies of liquid water under ice on several moons and one planet of our solar System. 

Liquid Water on Moons

Jupiter’s moon, Europa, probably has an Ocean of liquid water under an icy crust.  Other ice moons including Ganymede, Callisto and Saturn’s Moon Titan probably have bodies of water under them.  The ice on top insulates the liquid water, while the water is warmed by the moon below.  The internal heat of the moons is generated both by the decay of radioactive elements and by tidal forces set up by the planet the moon is revolving round and the other moons of the system.

Although perhaps less likely than the other moons mentioned, Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, may also have liquid water deep in its mantle.

Icy Lakes on a Planet

The southern ice cap of our Sun’s third planet (Earth) has hundreds of lakes under it.  Some of these lakes are covered by 3 kilometres or more of ice.  There is very strong evidence of microbial life in at least one of these lakes, and a strong probability exists that all of these lakes have life.  There are probably multi-cellular life forms in these lakes as well.

A joint Russian, French, US probe is close to the largest of these lakes, Lake Vostok, after a journey lasting over ten years.


All the elements required for life exist in these lakes.  Except for the ones on the Earth, we do not know if life is actually present.

Icy Surface of Europa

Reddish spots and shallow pits pepper the ridged surface of Jupiter's moon, Europa, in this view combining information from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft during two different orbits around Jupiter.
The dark spots are called "lenticulae," the Latin term for freckles. Their similar sizes and spacing suggest that Europa's icy shell may be churning away like a lava lamp, with warmer ice moving upward from the bottom of the ice shell while colder ice near the surface sinks downward. Other evidence has shown that Europa likely has a deep melted ocean under its icy shell. Ruddy ice erupting onto the surface to form the lenticulae may hold clues to the composition of the ocean and to whether it supports life.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Colorado