Alright, I think it’s time for a change-up. Let’s do a little spring cleaning, and redecorate our Solar System. Now, I know you’re a big fan of the Moon, but it’s so last season. Let’s get something fresh, something snazzier. How about Europa? I know, I know, the Moon is a classic, but Europa could be a heck of an upgrade.
Oh, and before you ask, the trade was mutual. The Moon is just fine. So, we’ll just moon-swap with Jupiter. What’s the worst that can happen? What secrets does Europa have in store for us? Would Europa be the perfect addition to our night sky? Or did we mess up really, really badly?
Europa is one of Jupiter’s 79 moons. So, I don’t think they’ll mind if we borrowed it. Covered by a thick layer of ice, with water beneath its surface, Europa is the sixth-largest moon in our Solar System. Because of its icy surface, Europa reflects a lot of sunlight, making it very, very bright. About 5.5 times brighter than our Moon to be exact.
And to sweeten the deal, Europa has the three essentials for supporting life, namely water, chemistry, and energy. Europa’s water dissolves nutrients so they can be eaten by organisms. This means that our new moon can be used to transport chemicals within living cells.
Plus, if we moved Europa to our current Moon’s spot, it would be millions of kilometers closer to the Sun. Sunlight may just be the one missing ingredient that’s been impeding any life there from developing further. So if we relocate Europa, we may eventually have some new neighbors. So, are you sold yet? Oh, you’re not?
Well, I’ve already filled out the real estate paperwork. So we’re just going to go ahead and do the swap. So, imagine looking up at the night sky and seeing, well, everything! Europa would light up the night sky, and be a breathtaking sight. To make things even better, there would be no negative consequences at all. Okay, you caught me. Look, I’m not really good at this whole real estate thing. So I’m going to come clean with you.
The first inconvenience you’re going to have is trouble sleeping. Imagine a floodlight coming through your bedroom window. Maybe you’ll need to get some new blinds? And it won’t be just you who’s having a hard time adjusting. It’s going to affect wildlife as well. For example, a lot of rodents hide when the moonlight is strong, to avoid becoming dinner for predators.
But with a strong continuous moonlight, they’ll eventually be forced to go outside and into danger. This means the rodent population will decrease rapidly. And that would affect the entire animal food chain. Next, Europa will shake things up. But not in a good way. The mass of our Moon is 1.5 times greater than that of Europa. This means that Europa would have a much weaker gravitational effect on the Earth.
The tides of our oceans will become much smaller. They may stop removing pollutants and circulating nutrients. You know, stuff that ocean plants and animals need to survive. If the tides are out of whack, it could have a devastating effect on ecosystems and lead to mass extinctions.
OK, well, it can’t get any worse, can it? Don’t be mad, but we may have messed up our entire planet. But look at how pretty the moon is! See! Just take it in … You’re not buying it.
Our Moon is responsible for stabilizing the Earth’s axis. Without the Moon’s pull, this new gravitational shift will start affecting our planet’s seasons and climate. We could be looking at a future where parts of Earth hardly ever see the Sun, while other areas never get a break from the Sun. This would affect everything. And I mean everything. If our axis became tilted too much, we could be looking at another ice age.
Thankfully, this process would be slow, so there would be time to prepare. The problem is, we’re not sure we have what it takes. I mean, look at global warming. Just a few degrees difference can cause entire ecosystems to become disturbed or wiped out. And we’ve barely scratched the surface of solving that problem. So, maybe we should give our real Moon a call, and see if it’ll take us back? We were just so excited about something new, and sexy, that we took our Moon for granted.
I… I miss you, Moon. The good news is, there are no real-world plans to move our Moon. Swapping our Moon with Europa could lead to some beautiful scenery, but at the cost of catastrophic consequences for Earth.
- “Europa: Facts About Jupiter’s Icy Moon And Its Ocean“. Howell, Elizabeth. 2018. Space.Com.
- “Life On Jupiter Moon Europa May Hide In Depths To Survive“.Redd, Nola. 2012. Space.Com.
- “Europa Clipper Overview“. 2020. NASA.
- “Giant Water Plume Detected Again On Jupiter Moon Europa”.Wall, Mike. 2017. Space.Com.
- “Ingredients For Life? | Europa – NASA’s Europa Clipper“. 2020. NASA’s Europa Clipper.