Feeds

Earth may have 'infected' Titan with life

Panspermia postulations

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

The various meteoric slappings sustained by Earth over the millenia may have seeded other parts of the solar system with life, if calculations by Canadian scientists are to be believed.

Planetary scientist Brett Gladman and colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver worked out that for material to be thrown up with enough force to exit Earth's atmosphere, it would take an impact from a meteor 10 to 50km across. They reckon such impacts, which include the famous 'dinosaur-killer' that formed the Chicxulub crater, send about 600m potenitally life-bearing rock fragments into solar orbit.

The team looked at whether the fragments' microbial passengers might find a home on one of the solar system's potentially sustaining worlds. Speaking at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in League City, Texas, Gladman said in the course of five million years Jupiter's moon Europa would get 100 hits and Saturn's Titan be seeded 30 times.

Despite its lower hit rate, the researchers think Titan more likely to have been fertilised. They calculated that Jupiter's gravity would pile the fragments into frozen Europa too fast. Titan's thick atmosphere whould split the fragments and slow the descent meanwhile.

Gladman was asked if he thought Earthly microbes would be able to endure Titan's freezing temperatures. He said: "That's for you people to decide, I'm just the pizza delivery boy."

The finding tips the panspermia theory on its head, and makes it a more interesting proposition. This once-fashionable idea of how life got started on Earth postulates that it was brought here by rocks from other worlds. While an undeniably diverting speculation, a cosmic common ancestry seems unprovable. Advocates cling to the apparently short time it took from Earth's formation to the emergence of life - around half a billion years. However, with a sample size of precisely one we cannot know the likelihood of life.

More crucially, panspermia contributes nothing to the quest for a complete theory of how life can emerge spontaneously - an important missing piece in the evolutionary jigsaw. The idea simply shifts the problem to another world. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.