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Space dust may transport life between worlds

20 November 2017

University of Edinburgh

(Credit: University of Edinburgh)

Life on our planet might have originated from biological particles brought to Earth in streams of space dust, a new study partly funded by STFC suggests.

Fast-moving flows of interplanetary dust that continually bombard our planet’s atmosphere could deliver tiny organisms from far-off worlds, or send Earth-based organisms to other planets, according to the research.

The dust streams could collide with biological particles in Earth’s atmosphere with enough energy to knock them into space, a scientist has suggested.

Professor Arjun Berera, from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who led the study, said: “The proposition that space dust collisions could propel organisms over enormous distances between planets raises some exciting prospects of how life and the atmospheres of planets originated. The streaming of fast space dust is found throughout planetary systems and could be a common factor in proliferating life."

Such an event could enable bacteria and other forms of life to make their way from one planet in the solar system to another and perhaps beyond.

The finding suggests that large asteroid impacts may not be the sole mechanism by which life could transfer between planets, as was previously thought.

Learn more about the research here.

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