Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Comets spread Earth-life around galaxy, say scientists

11.02.2004


If comets hitting the Earth could cause ecological disasters, including extinctions of species and climate change, they could also disperse Earth-life to the most distant parts of the Galaxy.

The "splash-back" from a large comet impact could throw material containing micro-organisms out of the planet’s atmosphere, suggest scientists from Cardiff University Centre for Astrobiology.

Although some of this outflowing material might become sterilised by heat and radiation, they believe that a significant fraction would survive. As the Earth and the Solar system go round the centre of the galaxy every 240 million years, this viable bacterial outflow would infect hundreds of millions of nascent planetary systems on the way. Hence, they suggest, the transfer of Earth life across the galaxy is inevitable.



These ideas are discussed in detail in two papers appearing in the current issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The authors of the two papers are Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe and Dr Max Wallis, of the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology, and Professor Bill Napier, an astronomer at Armagh Observatory and an Honorary Professor at Cardiff University.

Interstellar routes for transmission of micro-organisms supports the view that life may not have originated on Earth but arrived from elsewhere, strengthening the "panspermia theory" that Professor Wickramasinghe and the late Sir Fred Hoyle had been developing since 1974.

It is known that boulders and other debris may be thrown from the Earth into interplanetary space. Professor Napier finds that collisions with interplanetary dust will quickly erode the ejected boulders to much smaller fragments and that these tiny, life-bearing fragments may be driven out of the solar system by the pressure of sunlight in a few years.

The solar system could, therefore, be surrounded by an expanding ’biodisc’, 30 or more light years across, of dormant microbes preserved inside tiny rock fragments. In the course of Earth history there may have been a few dozen close encounters with star-forming nebulae, during which microbes might be injected directly into young planetary systems.

If planets capable of sustaining life are sufficiently common in the Galaxy, the Cardiff based scientists conclude that this mechanism could have infected over 10,000 million of them during the lifetime of our Galaxy.

Dr Wallis and Professor Wickramasinghe have also identified another potential delivery route. They point out that fertile Earth ejecta would, on impact, bury themselves in the radiation-shielded surface layers of frozen comets. A belt of such comets, the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, lies beyond the planetary system. This belt gradually leaks comets into interstellar space, some of which will eventually reach proto-planetary discs and star-forming nebulae. There they are destroyed by collisions and erosion, releasing any trapped micro-organisms and seeding the formative planetary systems.


Further information:

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe,
Centre for Astrobiology,
Cardiff University.
Tel.: 44-292-087-4201;
292-075-2146;
077-838-9243;
Email: Wickramasinghe@Cardiff.ac.uk;

Andrew Weltch | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Interstellar seeds could create oases of life
28.08.2015 | Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

nachricht Draw out of the predicted interatomic force
28.08.2015 | Hiroshima University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Increasingly severe disturbances weaken world's temperate forests

Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.

"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...

Im Focus: OU astrophysicist and collaborators find supermassive black holes in quasar nearest Earth

A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...

Im Focus: What would a tsunami in the Mediterranean look like?

A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...

Im Focus: Self-healing landscape: landslides after earthquake

In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.

These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...

Im Focus: FIC Proteins Send Bacteria Into Hibernation

Bacteria do not cease to amaze us with their survival strategies. A research team from the University of Basel's Biozentrum has now discovered how bacteria enter a sleep mode using a so-called FIC toxin. In the current issue of “Cell Reports”, the scientists describe the mechanism of action and also explain why their discovery provides new insights into the evolution of pathogens.

For many poisons there are antidotes which neutralize their toxic effect. Toxin-antitoxin systems in bacteria work in a similar manner: As long as a cell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Networking conference in Heidelberg for outstanding mathematicians and computer scientists

20.08.2015 | Event News

Scientists meet in Münster for the world’s largest Chitin und Chitosan Conference

20.08.2015 | Event News

Large agribusiness management strategies

19.08.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Production research by Fraunhofer IAO honored with three awards at the ICPR 2015

31.08.2015 | Awards Funding

Single-Crystal Phosphors Suitable for Ultra-Bright, High-Power White Light Sources

31.08.2015 | Materials Sciences

Manchester Team Reveal New, Stable 2D Materials

31.08.2015 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>