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December 12, 1980

Searching for Signs of Life

JAMA. 1980;244(23):2645. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310230045026

The planet Jupiter was once a miniature sun, according to Richard C. Hoagland, PhD, a space scientist. During that period, a rich stream of electromagnetic and cosmic ray energy bathed the Jovian satellites, including Europa, Jupiter's third-largest moon. Hoagland believes that photochemical formation of organic molecules, which are the precursors to life, occurred in a global ocean 65 miles deep on Europa's surface. When Jupiter's stellar phase ended, a crust of ice five miles thick formed on the moon's surface. Life evolved under this canopy of ice, sustained by internal heat sources.

This information is taken from a story that was clipped from my newspaper months ago. I have picked the story up, reread it, and pondered my peculiar fascination for it almost daily ever since. Why did this unusual thesis, the scientific validity of which I strongly doubted, continue to fasten my attention? It dutifully occurs to me, as