Life Could Spread Across Our Universe Like the Outbreak of an Epidemic

Monday, 31 August 2015 - 1:39PM
Astrobiology
Alien Life
Monday, 31 August 2015 - 1:39PM
Life Could Spread Across Our Universe Like the Outbreak of an Epidemic
One of the predominant theories of the origin of life on Earth involves panspermia, in which microorganisms from outer space "seeded" life on Earth. But now, a new study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics demonstrates that if panspermia occurred, it would form a distinctive pattern that we could identify, one which resembles the spread of an epidemic.

Opening quote
"In our theory clusters of life form, grow, and overlap like bubbles in a pot of boiling water," said lead author Henry Lin in a statement.
Closing quote


There are two primary theories of panspermia: first, microorganisms could inadvertently hitch a ride on an asteroid or other extraterrestrial object and proliferate after landing on another planet, or intelligent life could deliberately travel to other planets to colonize them. According to this new model, both of these scenarios would follow the same basic pattern which could potentially be detected by burgeoning human technologies. Life would spread outwards in all directions, taking root when it reached a habitable environment. This would lead to overlapping clusters of life, or oases spread all over the galaxy. 

Opening quote
"Life could spread from host star to host star in a pattern similar to the outbreak of an epidemic. In a sense, the Milky Way galaxy would become infected with pockets of life," said co-author Avi Loeb.
Closing quote


As we continue to search for extraterrestrial life, we may be able to detect this pattern in our own galaxy, if we're lucky. If Earth happens to be on the edge of one of these "bubbles," then we would expect life to exist on all habitable planets on one side of the Earth, while all of the planets on the other side of the Earth would be barren. This distinguishing pattern would not be consistent with life spontaneously arising on certain planets, in which case we would expect the instance of life to be essentially random.

Via Space.com.
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Space
Astrobiology
Alien Life

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