A new study shows that the building blocks for life on Earth may have 'seeded' throughout the entire galaxy.
You hear about it every day and nobody has actually discovered proof of ‘alien life,’ but astrophysicists are hard at work searching for signs nonetheless. According to a report from Discovery News, a team of scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics led by professor Henry Lin thinks that they will not only be able to detect the signature of life throughout the universe, but that they will be able to show how far it has spread.
Lin estimates that scientists will be able to describe the process of panspermia, or the transfer of life from planet to planet, within a generation. This can happen when a planet teeming with life is struck by a giant asteroid. Pieces of the planet’s crust would be hurled into space and any life still attached to the crust would be along for the ride.
If these deep-space stowaways were hardy enough to survive the trip to a new world, there is still a chance that life could take root and develop.
Researchers have also hypothesized that an intelligent civilization would be able to engage in “directed panspermia,” or the deliberate seeding of life to other worlds. They even believe that dead life forms could be sent to new worlds to act as a template for new life.
While these ideas are still largely hypothetical, Lin’s models already paint an interesting picture of the possibilities. As telescopes improve and we can see the surface of distant worlds in better detail, we may just stumble across a habitable planet where panspermia has already taken place.
The paper was accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.