If aliens exist, this moon is where we'll probably find them.

NASA is making plans to send a probe to Europa — one of Jupiter's more than 60 moons — and you wanna know why we should all be excited about this?

Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech.


There's a chance (probably a good one) they're gonna find aliens there.

He's not mad, he's just excited about so much science happening. GIF from "Star Wars: A New Hope."

Here's the thing — while Europa's surface might look like a big, dusty rock, it's actually ice. And below that ice might be a gigantic ocean.

Seriously, Europa's ocean is huge. Even though Earth is more than four times larger in diameter than Europa, it is estimated that Europa has more than twice as much ocean water.

Image from Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

That's important because liquid water and life are totally in love with each other. In fact, just about every place on Earth where we've found liquid water, we've found life.

Image from Bruno de Giutsi/Wikimedia Commons.

High in the atmosphere? Check. Buried under miles of rock? Is there water? Then there's life! There's even bacteria inside nuclear waste disposal dumps!

Life, uh, finds a way. Image from Michael Daly/Uniformed Services University/Wikimedia Commons.

So, if there is liquid water under Europa's icy surface, it is extremely likely that there are signs of life below.

Image from Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

OK, yes, we know, we know — if the entire moon is covered in ice, then how is that alien life getting energy? Doesn't it need sunlight?

Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech.

And that's very astute of you to wonder — but here's your answer: On Earth, deep-sea vents are capable of powering entire alien ecosystems.

Yes, Europa's icy surface probably means the oceans are completely dark, and yes, most food chains on Earth are based around the sun, but let us introduce you to our little friend: the hydrothermal vent.

Image from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On Earth, these vents exist deep under the ocean where sunlight never penetrates. Instead the life around them gets its energy from the superheated water and chemicals that erupt up from vents.

Europa is constantly being squeezed by Jupiter's gravity like an giant stress ball, which means it probably has an active, molten core just like Earth's.

An artist's impression of Europa's surface, with Jupiter visible in the background. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech.

A molten core means vents, and vents may mean life. In fact, there's even a theory that suggests life on Earth first developed around similar vents on Earth!

To find out if there is life under Europa's icy surface, scientists are sending a probe into orbit around Jupiter that will also make close passes by Europa.

The surface of Europa. Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute.

This will give the probe a chance to examine the moon, using tools like radar and spectrometers to learn more about its geology, it's stress-ball relationship with Jupiter, and what kinds of processes might be going on under the ice.

But that's not even the coolest thing about the probe — the coolest thing is the taste test the probe will conduct on one of its trips past Europa.

Images from the Hubble Telescope hint that giant plumes of water sometimes blast out of Europa's ocean like geysers, shooting some of its ocean water high into space.

Artist's depiction. Image from NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI/Wikimedia Commons.

The scientists are planning to add a bunch of robot tongues — essentially — to the front of their spacecraft and send it diving through the spray from these geysers to "taste" all that water and see what kinds of chemicals or possible lifeforms it can detect.

If there are aliens to be found, it's likely we'd find some trace of them on Europa. Meaning this mission could be the single biggest scientific discovery ever.

OK, so if they do find aliens, they're probably not going to look as pretty as Spock...

GIF from "Star Trek."

...or as be as suave as Chewie.


GIF from "Star Wars: A New Hope."

In fact, they'll probably look more like bacteria or algae. But alien algae would be totally cool too – because anything we find down there that's alive would totally revolutionize our concept of life in the universe. If life is so common that it could arise twice around a single star, then imagine what an entire galaxy's worth of planets and moons and stars could look like.

And even if they don't find any aliens, this mission is still worth celebrating because it's an awesome chance for us to explore our solar system and learn more about the universe we live in.

Watch NASA's animation about their mission to Europa below. And get excited! This could be the first step to finding aliens — real aliens — in our lifetime.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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