Natural Transfer of Viable Microbes in Space from Planets in the Extra-Solar Systems to a Planet in our Solar System and Vice-Versa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We investigate whether it is possible that viable microbes could have been transported to the Earth from planets in extra-solar systems by means of natural vehicles such as ejecta expelled by comets or asteroid impacts on such planets. The probabilities of close encounters with other solar systems are taken into account as well as the limitations of bacterial survival times inside ejecta in space, caused by radiation and DNA decay. The conclusion is that no potentially DNA/RNA life-carrying ejecta from another solar system in the general Galactic star field landed on the Earth before life already existed on the Earth, even if the microbial survival time in space is as long as tens of millions of years. However, if the Sun formed initially as a part of a star cluster, as is commonly assumed, we cannot rule out the possibility of transfer of life from one of the sister systems to us. Likewise, there is a possibility that some extra-solar planets carry life that originated in our solar system. It will be of great interest to identify the members of the Sun's birth cluster of stars and study them for evidence of planets and life on the planets. The former step may be accomplished by the GAIA mission, the latter step by the SIM and DARWIN missions. Therefore it may not be too long until we have experimental knowledge to answer the question of whether the natural transfer of life from one solar system to another has actually taken place.

Details

Authors
  • Mauri Valtonen
  • Pasi Nurmi
  • Jia-Qing Zheng
  • Francis A. Cucinotta
  • John W. Wilson
  • Gerda Horneck
  • Lennart Lindegren
  • Jay Melosh
  • Hans Rickman
  • Curt Mileikowsky
Organisations
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology

Keywords

  • meteors, meteoroids, planetary systems, astrobiology, stellar dynamics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-215
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume690
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes