Ocean Worlds of the Outer Solar System

  • Speaker
  • Kevin Peter Hand, Ph.D.Project Scientist, Pre-Phase A Europa Lander Mission Concept, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
Date & Time

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Where is the best place to find living life beyond Earth? The small, ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn may harbor some of the most habitable real estate in our solar system. Life loves liquid water, and these moons have lots of it.

These oceans worlds of the outer solar system have likely persisted for much of the solar system’s history and, as a result, are highly compelling targets in our search for life beyond Earth. In this lecture, Kevin Peter Hand will explain the science behind how we know these oceans exist and what we suspect about the conditions on these icy worlds. He will focus on Jupiter’s moon Europa, which is a top priority for future NASA missions. Hand will also show how the exploration of Earth’s ocean informs our understanding of the potential habitability of worlds like Europa.

About the Speaker

Hand is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. His research focuses on the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the solar system with an emphasis on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. His work involves both theoretical and laboratory research on the physics and chemistry of icy moons in the outer solar system. He served as co-chair for NASA’s Europa Lander Science Definition Team and is the project scientist for pre-phase-A of the Europa lander mission. From 2011 to 2016, he served as deputy chief scientist for solar system exploration at JPL. He served as a member of the National Academies’ Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences. His work has brought him to the dry valleys of Antarctica, the sea ice near the North Pole, the depths of the Earth’s oceans, and to the glaciers of Kilimanjaro. Hand was a scientist onboard James Cameron’s 2012 dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and he was part of a 2003 IMAX expedition to hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In total, he has made nine dives to the bottom of the ocean. In 2011, he was selected as a National Geographic Explorer. Hand earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and bachelor’s degrees from Dartmouth College.

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