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Beyond Earthly Skies

Spreading Life from Star to Star

21 Jun 2016, 22:00 UTC
Spreading Life from Star to Star
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Interstellar panspermia refers to the transport and spread of life from one extrasolar system to another. If interstellar panspermia is the dominant mechanism for the origin of life in extrasolar systems, then life-bearing extrasolar systems should exhibit more clustering when compared to the case whereby life originated spontaneously. Future searches for biosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets can potentially test such a prediction.Stars in the Milky Way drift relative to one another with a characteristic speed of a few tens of kilometres per second. Depending on the effective spreading speed of life, interstellar panspermia can fall within three possible regimes. (1) If interstellar panspermia takes place at speeds much greater than the characteristic speed of stars in the galaxy, then the drifting of stars is expected to be negligible in the clustering of related life-bearing extrasolar systems. This can happen if an intelligent species spreads life at high speeds.(2) Even if interstellar panspermia takes place at speeds comparable to the characteristic speed of stars in the galaxy, the clustering of life-bearing extrasolar systems is still expected to hold. This is applicable for lithopanspermia, whereby fragments of the life-bearing crust of a planet can get ejected into space by large impacts ...

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