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Earth Space Science

Scientists Study Trajectories of Life-Bearing Earth Meteorites 199

Hugh Pickens writes "About 65 million years ago, Earth was struck by an asteroid some 10 km in diameter with a mass of well over a trillion tonnes that created megatsunamis, global wildfires ignited by giant clouds of superheated ash, and the mass extinction of land-based life on Earth. Now astrobiologists have begun to study a less well known consequence: the ejection of billions of tons of life-bearing rocks and water into space that has made its way not just to other planets but other solar systems as well. Calculations by Tetsuya Hara and his colleagues at Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan show that a surprisingly large amount of life-bearing material ended up not on the Moon and Mars, as might be expected, but the Jovian moon Europa and the Saturnian moon Enceladus also received tons of life-bearing rock from earth. Even more amazingly, calculations suggest that most Earth ejecta ended up in interstellar space and some has probably already arrived at Earth-like exoplanets orbiting other stars. Hara estimates that about a thousand Earth-rocks from this event would have made the trip to Gliese 581, a red dwarf some 20 light years away that is thought to have a super-Earth orbiting at the edge of the habitable zone, taking about a million years to reach its destination. Of course, nobody knows if microbes can survive that kind of journey or even the shorter trips to Europa and Enceladus. But Hara says that if microbes can survive that kind of journey, they ought to flourish on a super-Earth in the habitable zone (PDF). 'If we consider the possibility that the fragmented ejecta (smaller than 1cm) are accreted to comets and other icy bodies, then buried fertile material could make the interstellar journey throughout the Galaxy,' writes Hara. 'Under these circumstances fragments could continue the interstellar journey and Earth origin meteorites could be transferred to Gl 581 system. If we take it as viable, we should consider the panspermia theories more seriously.'"
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Scientists Study Trajectories of Life-Bearing Earth Meteorites

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  • Re:Panspermia (Score:5, Informative)

    by socialleech ( 1696888 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @07:54AM (#39656383)
    You should read about the Miller-Urey experiment [].

    For those to lazy to read about it, scientists have created all of the amino acids required by life, using nothing but inorganic compounds, by recreating the atmospheric conditions of early Earth.

    Life may or may not have originated on Earth, but we tested it and found that it could have. If it could have been created here, using nothing but the things that the universe placed here, why couldn't it have also developed else where? Are we the seeding planet of the galaxy/universe? Were we seeded? Or is life just incredibly common?
  • Re:Panspermia (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:46AM (#39656915)

    You're not still dragging out that tired old experiment, are you? Have you figured out how many orders of magnitude (both in terms of probability and complexity) bare amino acids are away from the simplest self-replicating thing we have found on earth so far? You'll need a lot more experimental evidence than just Miller-Urey to bridge the gap between inorganic compounds and life.

    (Yes, there are experiments that show self-replication of specially-designed ad hoc molecules, but the experimenters have to provide all the raw materials in just the right amounts for those experiments to work. Not exactly realistic pre-biotic conditions.)

  • by mattr ( 78516 ) <mattr@teleb o d y .com> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:11AM (#39657255) Homepage Journal

    Actually Martin Lo discovered low energy gravitational paths or "superhighways" that would allow objects like space probes and maybe rocks to travel all around the solar system without power. These calculations were used in the Genesis probe NASA project IIRC. [] []

What hath Bob wrought?