Sunday, September 30, 2012

The probability of panspermia

There is increased evidence that, to borrow a phrase from science fiction, "life here began out there."

A press release from Princeton University has announced that new research tends to support the idea that microorganisms and other organic material embedded in comets and meteors came to Earth in its infancy, thus "seeding"our planet with life.  The meteors themselves were likely fragments from very distant planets where life had already arisen. This is a principle known as "panspermia."  As the release states:

"The researchers report in the journal Astrobiology that under certain conditions there is a high probability that life came to Earth -- or spread from Earth to other planets -- during the Solar System’s infancy when Earth and its planetary neighbors orbiting other stars would have been close enough to each other to exchange lots of solid material. The work was presented at the 2012 European Planetary Science Congress on Sept. 25."

While our Sun was in its birth cluster phase, it could have bounced meteors and asteroids back and forth with its nearest planetary system.  Next thing you know, life hits Earth.  In theory then, there could be multitudes of these life-embedded rocks bouncing around in space.  The Oort Cloud, for example, may not simply be a cluster of comets and space rocks, but a garden of life.  That is to say if any organic material still survives within the interstellar void. From the Princeton findings, it would appear that it is capable of doing so for at least a modicum of time.

This shouldn't be a surprise, I suppose.  Back in 2005, NASA's Deep Impact space probe collected readings from a comet.  Among the findings were compounds such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water, ethane, and trace amounts of other hydrocarbons.  While it wasn't enough to jump about and cheer "we found life!", those are indeed elements required to form amino acids.  And of course Richard Hoagland has been saying quite a while now that life here on Earth came from a meteor from Mars.  Mars of course being inhabited at the time in his hypothesis.

Please, I'm not bagging on Hoagland.  Astronomers from the 19th Century believed that a planet called Phaeton used to take up an orbit between Mars and Jupiter.  It was destroyed and thus we have the asteroid belt there now.  Thetic thought has long since discredited this and the asteroid belt formed not from a destroyed planet but a planet that never was.  Still, sort of compelling to muse that our system had another planet, perhaps one that was life-filled, who in its death throes sent a bit of that life to us. 

 "There are those who believe... that life here... began out there. Far across the universe."

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1 comment:

  1. This just in...


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