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Oceans across the solar system and the search for extraoceanic life: technologies for remote sensing and in situ exploration

Chirayath, Ved, Bagshaw, Elizabeth ORCID:, Craft, Kate, Heidi, Heidi, Lim, Darlene, Malaska, Michael, Pizarro, Oscar, Purkis, Sam, Schroeder, Dustin, Sobron, Pablo, Waller, Sarah and Winebrenner, Dale 2022. Oceans across the solar system and the search for extraoceanic life: technologies for remote sensing and in situ exploration. Oceanography 35 (1) , pp. 54-65. 10.5670/oceanog.2021.416

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Earth’s ocean comprises 99% of the habitable volume of our planet and contains the largest biomass and species diversity in the known universe. Perhaps unsurprisingly, recent advances in the search for life elsewhere in our solar system have increasingly pointed to potentially viable niches for life on other dynamic ocean worlds such as Titan, Europa, and Enceladus, among other moons of the outer gas giants. Indeed, the discovery of extraterrestrial life on these icy water bodies may motivate adopting an altogether new terminology and further non-anthropic perspective on the cosmos. Extraoceanic life, to coin a term, may well prove to be a designation more representative of the abundance and diversity of life in space. Exploration of such ocean worlds across the solar system will undoubtedly be enabled by technological developments in a range of sensing methodologies primarily developed for oceanography on Earth. As we have learned studying our home ocean, where less than 10% of the benthic surface has been optically imaged, the challenge is daunting, yet recent advances give hope. Here, we review some of the state-of-the-art techniques from oceanography and planetary science that may inform sensing of the biological and geophysical properties of ocean worlds, ranging from large-scale synoptic views afforded by active and passive remote sensing to in situ autonomous sampling and methods for detecting biosignatures.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Oceanography Society
ISSN: 1042-8275
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 2 November 2022
Date of Acceptance: 2 August 2022
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 20:46

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