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Earth Ejecta Could Seed Life On Europa

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i-now-fear-the-europaraptor dept.

Earth 130

KentuckyFC writes "Various astronomers have studied how far rocks can travel through space after being ejected from Earth. Their conclusion is that it's relatively easy for bits of Earth to end up on the Moon or Venus, but very little would get to Mars because it would have to overcome gravity from both the Sun and the Earth. Now, the biggest ever simulation of Earth ejecta confirms this result — with a twist. The simulation shows that Jupiter is a much more likely destination than Mars. So bits of Earth could have ended up on Jovian satellites such as Europa. Astrobiologists estimate that Earth's hardiest organisms can survive up to 30,000 years in space, which means that if conditions are just right, Earth ejecta could seed life there."

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Impossible (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166786)

However long life may survive in space, when the organisms reach Europa, they get a message saying "DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LAND THERE" and get blasted out of the sky.

Re:Impossible (2)

eclectus (209883) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166820)

It already reached Europa, thrived, and is attempting to stop anything else from landing. Why else do you think it spoke english?

Re:Impossible (-1, Offtopic)

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Re:Impossible (0)

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Re:Impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37170666)

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Re:Impossible (1)

Mr. Guyman (2340408) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169066)

I live in europea but i dont see organisms no where not even sound but they says theres in sky should i be worrie. i herd on the webs that organism has invaded but i dont see them no where wats going on.

Re:Impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37170480)

Pedantic note:

"ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE."

Sadly, the lameness filter prevented me from simply posting the above (apparently the fact that it's a direct quotation doesn't override the capital letters).

Latest evidence (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166836)

The latest evidence has fossil life appearing on Earth so soon after the LHB that it is implausible it evolved here.

Re:Latest evidence (2)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166894)

I'm too tired. I read that as "as evidenced by LRH (L. Ron Hubbard), it is implausible life evolved." And, i agree with that. Course, the counter argument is he was a highly evolved gibbon (no offense towards gibbons).

Re:Latest evidence (2)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166916)

Without some basis for seeing it arrive elsewhere, it's pretty hard to proclaim any timeframe as "implausible". Until we get good date from other examples there's just no way to get an estimate on the normal time it would take for life to evolve from scratch to know whether it was accelerated or not in our case.

Re:Latest evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169706)

Ah the dangers of doing statistics with only one data point.

Re:Latest evidence (1)

Latinhypercube (935707) | more than 2 years ago | (#37171680)

Wrong. We can try to experimentally re-recreate the origins of life (FAIL). Or look for a second genesis (FAIL).

LHB is Late Heavy Bombardment (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167130)

To save anyone else the bother of googling it to be reminded.

Re:Latest evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167862)

no it doesn't.

Even if it did... You're suggesting that it'd be more plausible if....?? 0.o

Interesting and annoying (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166844)

Well this is interesting. The fact that it is easier for our ejecta to get to a moon of Jupiter than Mars when Mars is much further away is counterintuitive and cool. But, this means that even if we find life on Europa, unless that life's basic biochemistry is radically different from that on Earth, we won't be getting any useful data about how difficult it is for life to start. The Drake Equation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation [wikipedia.org] and variants thereof try to get an estimate for how common intelligence life should be. Most of the non-biological parameters (e.g. rate of star formation, how common planets are in star systems) we've been able to pin down estimates for a lot better than we used to (thanks in a large part to the modern ability to detect exoplanets and especially the massive amount of data we've got from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org] although we still don't have a very good idea of exactly how common Earth-like planets are and the Terrestrial Planet Finder got canceled underestimates the chance for life to arise.

Re:Interesting and annoying (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166870)

Ugh, should pay more attention to preview. Last part got cut off from bad URL link. Mean to say:

Well this is interesting. The fact that it is easier for our ejecta to get to a moon of Jupiter than Mars when Mars is much further away is counterintuitive and cool. But, this means that even if we find life on Europa, unless that life's basic biochemistry is radically different from that on Earth, we won't be getting any useful data about how difficult it is for life to start. The Drake Equation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org] and variants thereof try to get an estimate for how common intelligence life should be. Most of the non-biological parameters (e.g. rate of star formation, how common planets are in star systems) we've been able to pin down estimates for a lot better than we used to (thanks in a large part to the modern ability to detect exoplanets and especially the massive amount of data we've got from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org] although we still don't have a very good idea of exactly how common Earth-like planets are and the Terrestrial Planet Finder got canceled http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrestrial_Planet_Finder [wikipedia.org] . This strongly suggests that investingating Euorpa won't get a good estimate for this probability. However, it also suggests that Drake's assumption that the chance for life to arise on each planet or moon is independent underestimates the chance for life to arise.

Re:Interesting and annoying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167696)

Mars is not much further away than Jupiter. Can you repost again with this fixed?

Re:Interesting and annoying (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167852)

Well this is interesting. The fact that it is easier for our ejecta to get to a moon of Jupiter than Mars when Mars is much further away is counterintuitive and cool.

I can't say though I find this really surprising. I suspect the average Joe (layman, astronomically-speaking) tends to think of the planets in a linear precession, each further from the Sun than the previous one; we grew up in classrooms with posters depicting them like that ; the truth being, of course, the planets all orbit at individual rates, (sometimes I forget too) so at times, the Earth could be in an inferior conjunction with Jupiter, but Mars is all the way over on the opposite side of the Solar System - as you alluded to.
As to how far the ejecta travels outward,it doesn't seem that unlikely that solar gravity has such a limited effect, because the objects have so little mass to act on, comparatively, and if they were ejected with enough force to exceed escape velocity, then it seems intuitive that they would continue outward, and possibly, if they get close enough, eventually get captured by Jupiter's large gravitational field, especially should Jupiter happen to be in the "right place" after an asteroid impact on Earth. The Sun's gravitational pull gets weaker the farther out they go, but Jupiter's grows stronger.
But then, hindsight and all that..

Re:Interesting and annoying (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167874)

Hindsight here is wrong. That's a typo. My point was that Mars is generally closer than Jupiter but that it is easier to get ejecta to Mars than Earth. That's what is counterintuitive. Even when Mars and Earth are opposite each other they are only about 15-20 light minutes apart. When Earth and Jupiter are near each other they are still farther away than that.

Re:Interesting and annoying (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168258)

I eagerly await version 2.0 of this post.

Re:Interesting and annoying (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167466)

The fact that it is easier for our ejecta to get to a moon of Jupiter than Mars when Mars is much further away is counterintuitive and cool.

Umm, Mars is actually much CLOSER than Europa.

Re:Interesting and annoying (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167618)

Er yes, that's why it is counterintuitive that it is easier to get Jupiter. Wow. I really need to work on the whole preview thing a lot more.

Re:Interesting and annoying (0)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167724)

Er yes, that's why it is counterintuitive that it is easier to get Jupiter. Wow. I really need to work on the whole preview thing a lot more.

What's really sad is that you realized you'd made a mistake on your original post, reposted it with the correction, and left the "mars is farther away" thing in the revised one too. ;)

That aside, it is pretty cool that it's easier to reach Jupiter's satellites than Mars. Especially given that the ejecta can reach Venus, which requires only a tiny bit less deltaV to reach than Mars.

Re:Interesting and annoying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168654)

Venus is slightly smaller than earth. The gravitational pull from Venus would be enough to pull the object rest of the way there once it arrived at a certain point in space. Just like with the moon, you don't have to hurl an object all the way to the Moon's surface, just a little over halfway before the gravity takes over pulling the object toward the moon. Mars is much smaller than earth therefore would have a lot less gravitational pull. So yes, it would be harder to get objects to this planet.

However Jupiter is the largest mass planet in our solar system. While only slightly larger than Saturn, it is much closer to us and is more plausible to be able to project an item to that planet. More than likely the object will wind up on Jupiters surface though and not a moon. The only creature that would survive is an organism that can survive super cold temperatures and breathe hydrogen.

Re:Interesting and annoying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168032)

Well it's all very well claiming that hardy simple life can survive 30ka in a rock in space, but how does such life survive being ejected into space in the first place? I doubt any life can survive being in impacted or even molten rock after a serious asteroid impact...

Re:Interesting and annoying (1)

Froeschle (943753) | more than 2 years ago | (#37169140)

Perhaps it depends on the size of the rock and how deep the life is embedded into it? Also in the course of the history of the Earth there was sure a lot more than just one rock ejected from thee planet's surface.

sounds dirty (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37166854)

could anybody come up with a dirtier title for a story?

-- posted as AC due to moderator violence [slashdot.org] .

Re:sounds dirty (4, Funny)

SniperJoe (1984152) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166972)

How about "The Earth's Life Giving Goo could land on Europa's Face"

Re:sounds dirty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167064)

Or "The Earth's Rock Hard Parts Giving An Explosive Facial to Europa"

Re:sounds dirty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37169886)

Gaea was supposed to be a female deity....

Admiral Ackbar told me so.

Re:sounds dirty (1)

Nicolas.Calderon (1193625) | more than 2 years ago | (#37171220)

Or "Earth's Life Giving Goo could land on Earth's Own Face"

How about the opposite? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166892)

If it's easier for rocks to come sunward, then does that mean there's a chance that life-bearing rocks from Europa could have seeded the Earth.

Re:How about the opposite? (1)

Bomazi (1875554) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166928)

What rocks ? Europa is covered in ice.

Re:How about the opposite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167588)

Europa is covered in ice.

And spooge, according to the title.

Re:How about the opposite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167826)

What rocks ? Europa is covered in ice.

Well, it is now. After all the rocks got sent to Earth and other places trying to seed life.

Re:How about the opposite? (1)

BetaDays (2355424) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166932)

I knew I wasn't from around here.

Re:How about the opposite? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166936)

Possible - but realistically you're putting the cart before the horse there. There's no evidence as of yet that there even is any life on Europa - or ever has been. It's a possibility sure, but until we at least have evidence to support life in the past there then any speculation on it seeding a planet with abundant known life isn't very useful.

Or, put more simply: you should always look for evidence that something DID happen than to come up with some scenario that has no current evidence against it and assume it likely.

Re:How about the opposite? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166976)

you should always look for evidence that something DID happen

True, but since this entire topic (that Earth could have seeded Europa) is conjecture, a little more doesn't hurt. And since we know there's life on Earth wondering where it came from is more fruitful.

Re:How about the opposite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167426)

Wondering where life on Earth came from in that context would be pretty pointless. It still wouldn't answer the big questions, it would just move the possible start point of the process to another planet but that still doesn't address "did we spontaneously spring into existence or did something give us a helping hand". Personally I think it would be more interesting to consider the possibility of using this knowledge to actively seed Europa - surely we can come up with a cheap system of throwing rocks and use this to possibly spread life.

Re:How about the opposite? (2)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167040)

I'm no expert on such things, so feel free to ignore these musings.

I've often wondered if life really originated on another planet in our solar system, then came to Earth, why would it never have developed into something like we have here.

If it happened elsewhere first, then would they not have been more advanced, or did they never get past a certain phase? Or would the life form there be so different that we'd never have anything common enough to be able to identify the other as a life form.

Obviously, if people were subscribing to the idea of seeding life from one rock to another, then you can't expect to have one carbon based model vs silicone based. So things would have to be close enough so that they develop along some common thread. This would mean that the environment never got to a stage on Europa so that the algae decided to become fish, or fish to become mammals.

But then considering the timelines involved, with animal life spanning millions of years, what are the odds that we'll have some form of sentient life capable of detecting eachother within the same 300 year period.

If life could have originated on Europa, then is it still behind Earth developmentally, or is it so far advanced that it's extinct, or moved on. The idea that it's more advanced, and has not contacted us seems unlikely. So it would mean that either we seeded it, or it developed life independently (if there's life there at all) and has not (or cannot) develop to a level equal to us.

So, to sum up:
If life began on Europa and seeded Earth, what happened to stop further development on Europa?

Re:How about the opposite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167774)

The fact that simple live could have been planted here/there does not mean that was the only life on that source planet. It was the only life that was able to make that trip. It does not represent the current state of all life past or present from that source. A mold could leave the earth 100 million years ago, today or in 100 million years from now. That does not prove humans lived here or we had dinosaurs in the past.

Re:How about the opposite? (3, Insightful)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167958)

I think an unspoken assumption you are making is that the evolution of life "advances" toward intelligence linearly at a common rate. This isn't really accurate. Advanced life does not necessarily mean intelligent life.

Life may well exist on Europa, and may well have existed for just as long as life on earth. We can look for examples in the communities surviving around deep ocean thermal vents (which are likely the best analog we have for the environment in Europa's oceans). Those environments are teaming with life in a fairly small area. That life isn't intelligent, and may never face the evolutionary pressures that will lead to the development of intelligence, but is very very highly adapted to an extremely harsh environment. That level of evolution can be considered every bit as "advanced" as our intelligence.

Mars life probably infected Earth early on (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167158)

Being smaller, Mars stabilized geologically before Earth and life evolved there first. Then it probably infected Earth.

form where, to where: no meaning (2)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#37166958)

it is my opinion that the theory of comets seeding life on earth, or earth seeding life on europa or mars or elsewhere is completely besides the point:

the seeds of life are simply everywhere, inside and outside the solar system, and life is simply always lying dormant, everywhere in the galaxy, as bits of flotsam and jetsam of space debris, ready to seed something somewhere, at any time, in the distant future, and the distant past

this whole argument of where life came from is moot. the potential is simply always there, everywhere, ready to seed

Re:form where, to where: no meaning (1)

biodata (1981610) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167120)

Fred would have agreed with you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Hoyle [wikipedia.org] See his great work Evolution from Space

Re:form where, to where: no meaning (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167186)

thank you, that's awesome, because like fred i believe the big bang theory is a load of bunk as well

the universe is infinite in space AND time. the expansion and contraction we see on the "edge" of the universe is a local phenomenon. it's like being on the crest or trough of a wave in the middle of the ocean: the expansion and contraction you see is only local, in an infinite expanse of contractions and expansions

that's just my opinion, but since we first started looking skyward (geocentric solar system debunked, etc.) we always seem to fall for the prejudice we are at the center of things happening. the big bang theory is simple an extension of this prejudice. the march of astronomical progress has always shown we aren't anywhere special, or any TIME special

Re:form where, to where: no meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167628)

Maybe you could make a movie about cosmological zombies. That would be great.

Re:form where, to where: no meaning (2)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#37171058)

that's just my opinion, but since we first started looking skyward (geocentric solar system debunked, etc.) we always seem to fall for the prejudice we are at the center of things happening. the big bang theory is simple an extension of this prejudice. the march of astronomical progress has always shown we aren't anywhere special, or any TIME special

Except modern cosmological theory, including and especially the Big Bang, are based on the assumption that we aren't at "the center", that we aren't at a special time or place.

Sounds like you just have misunderstood the theory and from that basis believe it to be bunk.

Re:form where, to where: no meaning (1)

englishstudent (1638477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167378)

I think you hit the nail on the head.

Elements are not seeds (4, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167562)

the seeds of life are simply everywhere, inside and outside the solar system, and life is simply always lying dormant, everywhere in the galaxy

I'd say the elements of life are everywhere, but not the seeds. Having the material but not the proper information is not enough. Life is composed by amino acids, but those are merely the bricks used to make proteins. One must have a suitable floor plan to build a house.

What makes conditions on early earth so special is not the existence of organic chemistry, but the special circumstances, so far not known to us, that brought the formation of complex self-reproducing chains of amino acids.

Re:Elements are not seeds (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167796)

agreed 100%. except what we are talking about is indeed accurately described as seeds

we all understand we aren't talking about a literal plant based seed

we are talking about the most basic molecular units that have the potential to replicate in the right environment. seeds

i mean if you still find use of the word seed as confusing, i would counter that the use of the word element in this context is equally confusing, as we aren't talking about just literal carbon and nitrogen, but how those elements are arranged as basic replication blocks

Re:Elements are not seeds (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167922)

The papers mentioned in TFA mention the probability of a rock ejected from Earth reaching Europa. I didn't see in the abstract anything about the probability of survival of a viable spore.

We must take into account that all life is dependent of an ecological niche. For earth to seed life on another planet or vice versa one would need a spore that can survive the extreme conditions of vacuum, temperature variations, and radiation found in space. Then those spores should find an environment where they landed that would supply the needed conditions for reproduction and growth of that life form.

One often sees people mentioning, "look, this bacteria can survive in hot springs under the sea", or "look, this bacteria spores can survive in vacuum", or "look, this bacteria can survive in highly acidic liquids". They are not the same bacteria.

Being able to survive in one specific condition that might be considered extreme for us does not mean it will survive in all the extreme conditions needed to survive and reproduce after being ejected from one planet and falling on another celestial body.

Re:Elements are not seeds (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168188)

we're not talking about organisms. we're talking about basic molecular units of replication

still, the chance of such units getting ejected from one place of life, and seeding another place of potential life, is, obviously, vanishingly small

but over vast stretches of space and vast stretches of time, it goes from tiny possibility to probability

Re:Elements are not seeds (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 2 years ago | (#37170546)

You are making some assumptions that may not be true. Amino acids work as elements of life at temperatures around the melting point/boiling point of water under what seem to be normal planetary atmospheres. It's not clear that they would work on, e.g., Titan. You'd probably want something a bit more active. Maybe life isn't possible there, but I don't think that's the way to bet. (It could, of course, be more improbable, but then we don't know just how likely life was to arise on earth. It seems, in retrospect, to have been quite likely, but this could easily be a mistake.)

So. Amino acids are AN element from which life can be built. Possibly, however, not the only one. And we probably don't know what else to go looking for.

I do agree, however, that given what is currently known calling the extant space-born molecules "seeds of life" is overstating the case.

And the Hardiest organism is? (1)

Busted1942 (1533889) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167036)

Long live the Cockroach!

Re:And the Hardiest organism is? (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167342)

I think you'll find it's the Waterbear [wikipedia.org]

Totally true tale (1)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167712)

They prefer the term Aquaursus. Bears' real name was originally in German which they spoke ... later they would go on to form ancient Slavic languages as well and star in Bugs Bunny cartoons. The Ursidae Cabal knew that knowing their real name with give power over them including being able to merge with one to become a werebear (you might heard of one .. ColBEAR). The story of owlbears is too gross, but Aquaursus were ancient protobears that evolved into a highly intelligent republic of entities - retaining individuality while having the benefits of a hive collective. They are waiting on humanity to fuck up and/or help them crack the Earth Egg releasing their next form: the Space Bear. (BTW, humanities real name, given to us by the Honeybadgers, is also lost. It translates to "Givers of Plastic" or "Suckers" depending on who believe.)

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=bear [etymonline.com]

Also see, Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle" which is an allegory for this tale.

"Winged bear? Oh My God it's the end times!" - crow, 814 - Riding With Death

Re:Totally true tale (1)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167800)

"In May 2011, studies involving tardigrades[Aquaursus] were included on STS-134, the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour."

Should have read that earlier, these are advanced scouts for the Space Bear. I mean ... obviously.

Re:Totally true tale (1)

Yamioni (2424602) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167972)

Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Waterbear (1)

ildon (413912) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167492)

All glory to the waterbear! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Waterbear (1)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167986)

You must know of their http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2391554&cid=37167712 [slashdot.org] ">plans too and are trying to get on their good side. Like the Remora, a few lucky souls will be allowed to serve them in the Cave of Hops and Honey. It will involve a lot of temporal maintenance and cleanup; on the plus side, the Hilter Time Traveling Exemption (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ptitlekz83hawz) will be lifted and whole cottage industry will be setup to assassinate him over and over again (that's why they used the Ruskies to steal his body, it's part of the Fugacious Firmament Flow Faunt).

Re:Waterbear (1)

ildon (413912) | more than 2 years ago | (#37171170)

Ha, that's what I get for getting distracted and reading the waterbear article before clicking submit.

the body or the subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167048)

yeah, we use to eject a lot on europe...

Why wait? (1)

odirex (1958302) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167070)

Why wait for nature and chance? Launch some seed rockets.

Re:Why wait? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167418)

Just help people to live on asteroids. They'll leak biologicals all over the Solar System for free.

Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167078)

Porn for nerds, stuff that squirts.

Slight problem... (2)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167088)

Surely any event that could eject material from earth with sufficient energy to escape Earth's gravity well would tend to melt the ejecta at the same time, so the bacteria would have to be seriously hardy...

Re:Slight problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167312)

A lot of material may become molten or vaporized, but some solid material gets moved around.

Re:Slight problem... (3, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168612)

Surely any event that could eject material from earth with sufficient energy to escape Earth's gravity well would tend to melt the ejecta at the same time,

No. Some, but not all. Here is a mechanism - impacting object hits, penetrates, and is stopped and imparts spherical shock wave into the Earth (or other planet) some depth inside the planet. (In simple terms, it explodes inside the crust of the Earth.) Some part of that shock wave is propagating near vertically up, away from the planet (including, maybe, parts that reflect from internal structure). These shocks lift material up out of what becomes the crater. For a 2 km crater (such as the Great Meteor Crater in Arizona), these shocks turn the layers in the near surface material upside down, just lifting and flipping them over in much the same way you would flip over a pancake, moves a mass of material maybe 1 km, without vaporizing any except for a small fraction near where the impactor stops. For a 100+ km crater, that some process pushes the some of the surface layers off the planet entirely (and also causes long rays, such as are found on the Moon). While some of the ejected material is vaporized, most isn't, and some is treated quite gently (for a massive explosion), gently enough that biological spores and the like could survive the experience.

Re:Slight problem... (1)

climb_no_fear (572210) | more than 2 years ago | (#37170238)

IANAP (I am not a physicist) rather only a lowly geneticist. However, one question for someone that sounds like he understands the physics involved here:

I'll accept your assertion at face value that a rock containing spores could be ejected in such a way that some hardy spores could survive.

Now tell me this: This rock has to have the right amount of energy to reach Europa. Does it get blasted to bits upon impact and incinerate our little friends? The seeding hypothesis purported here sounds like the rock smashes through 20 km of ice to reach liquid water, where, presumably, conditions will allow the bugs to reproduce, etc (although maybe the tectonics of Europa would suck in rocks on its surface, allowing rapid access to liquid water?)

Re:Slight problem... (1)

utkonos (2104836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37170894)

I think you may be quite surprised at how many extremophile archaea there are, and what kind of conditions they can survive in. Alternatively, humans have been sending rocket-assisted ejecta into space for years and years.

Future Tense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167094)

I'm just a tad uncomfortable with the use of the future tense in the headline. While we're all at the bottom of our gravity well, I hope that we won't in the future be contributing enough ejecta to seed Europa.

Europa and the NASA Twins (1)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167136)

The problem with Europa is that the interesting bits we want to get at are under (at least) 20 kilometers of ice. Whoever figures out how to breach that without destroying the environment beneath is going to be a winner in the big NASA lottery, and enable a lot of exciting exploration. Callisto probably has a similar subsurface ocean, for instance -

Re:Europa and the NASA Twins (3, Informative)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168028)

The problem with Europa is that the interesting bits we want to get at are under (at least) 20 kilometers of ice. Whoever figures out how to breach that without destroying the environment beneath is going to be a winner in the big NASA lottery, and enable a lot of exciting exploration. Callisto probably has a similar subsurface ocean, for instance -

If I understand what I've read about Europa, we may not need to get through the ice at all. Due to tidal tugging, Europa is full of cracks. When those cracks form, it is believed that liquid water cycles to the surface and freezes again. It's Europa's version of plate tectonics. We should be able to get an excellent idea of what is below the surface by taking a sample of the surface ice on the surface near these cracks or even within the cracks themselves. As a bonus, whatever we find will be pre-frozen. Kinda like the frozen veggie aisle at your local grocer.

Why we have not sent a probe to land on Europa by now is beyond me.

Lets just start the future argument now... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167222)

Lets fill a probe with biological stuff we think might work there and seed the thing ourselves!

Re:Lets just start the future argument now... (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167256)

Lets fill a probe with biological stuff we think might work there and seed the thing ourselves!

There is definitely a joke in there somewhere...

Not just Europa (1)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167330)

I told my wife I wanted to use my ejecta to seed life in^H^Hon Uranus, but she said no way.

Scifi backwards (1)

Windwraith (932426) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167410)

This is a classic scifi scenario, just entirely reversed.
Let's send our "alien" meteorites to crash on other planets and spread our biological monsters!
Now let's hope European(*) Bruce Willis doesn't try to nuke it before it arrives.

(*) I am obviously talking of the on-topic Europa, but the idea of Bruce Willis with stereotypical French attire kind of makes me giggle. You know the beret and stripped shirt and baguette thing (no offence intended to real Frenchmen. Salut!)

Re:Scifi backwards (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167644)

I think there was something like that in Hudson Hawk. The Bruce Willis bit, I mean, not panspermia.

Earth Ejaculates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167516)

Who knew!

Re:Earth Ejaculates? (1)

scuzzlebutt (517123) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168818)

More like "Earth gets its rocks off"...

Solar System Bukakke (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167694)

You've heard of panspermiation, but lets call it what it is, a massive organic molecule cross pollination, with everything coming from one's own solar system. I have a real hard time accepting panspermiation from interstellar space. And while it might happen, the odds of it are is virtually zero. I'd assume those events to be from supernovas which would likely destroy any organic bonds as the material gets distributed throughout the universe on the shockwave of the supernova. Then it has to survive stellar formation...

Anyway, I think We'll have to add galaxy and solar system to the taxonomical names of species. Ours would be wilky way : sol

Re:Solar System Bukakke (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167908)

No need of a supernova, and no one has ever suggested that as a mechanism. There is the possibility of directed panspermia if you're into sci-fi, or just rocks flying free from their solar systems.
http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=188 [centauri-dreams.org]

All you need is a lot of material, to have decent odds.

One meteor speed listed there is 300km/s - at that speed, it would take 4000 years to get to Alpha Centauri. If life can survive reasonably well for 30,000 years, that gets to quite a few stars nearby. You just need a lot of ejecta.

Universe is a messy place, and our earth's history has involved a lot of stuff banging about. I don't see why the theory should be rejected out of hand.

Re:Solar System Bukakke (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168422)

Oh, I completely, agree, that reaching a star system is possible, possibly even probable, given a direct course. However to contribute it must survive the journey and reach the right destination. Given that suns are the biggest attractor, and heavy Jupiters are next most attractors, these guys will suck up the majority of material and destroy it through temperature. Even after arriving on an planet of suitable composition, temperature and chemistry, it still has to wait around and last long enough to influence the chemistry there. Landing on the surface is not nearly as good as landing in an ocean. I don't expect it to play out like the movie "Evolution" where the ejecta was able to create its own micro climate.

The odds are low, but non-zero. And I find that very exciting.

Re:Solar System Bukakke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168560)

http://www.atlasoftheuniverse.com/50lys.html

It is fun to think of all of these possibly being our relatives.

Re:Solar System Bukakke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168526)

The real problem with Panspermia is not that it's implausible so much as that it fails Occam's Razor.

A complete theory of the origins of life on Earth will have to explain how life forms from nonliving matter, and how that life ended up on Earth. Until there exists evidence to the contrary, the assumption that life came to Earth from an extraterritorial body, on which it originally formed is unnecessary and does not add any predictive power to the theory. As such it should be considered an inferior to the theory in which life simply formed where it is observed to exist (Earth).

In short, Panspermia attempts to answer a question no one asked ("where did life originate") while passing it off as the answer to one that was asked ("how did life originate").

Re:Solar System Bukakke (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168700)

I'm not arguing that panspermia necessarily explains life on earth, just that it isn't impossible.

But there are some things that panspermia is useful for.
One being that as the age of life on earth gets pushed ever back, there is less and less time for life to have formed on an increasingly hostile early earth. The standard response is that, well, since we are here, it must have happened, we just happened to win the lottery ticket, and since we did, are here to be aware of it.

But panspermia exands both the time and surface area for life to have arisen by billions of years and stars.

It is a more complex explanation, certainly, but it helps quite a bit with the probabilities.
It also expands the possible conditions under which life had formed. As the origins of life get pushed back, the possible environments on earth are more limited. But if panspermia is a possibility, that allows scientists to reasonably continue investigating conditions other than those on the very early earth.

There's been some effort to try and detect evidence of life in ancient rocks at 3.8 billion years back or earlier. That cuts the available time for *complex* life to form down to a mere ¾ of a billion years or less. One objection to this evidence has been the shortness of time and the hostile climate on earth at that time. So in this case, panspermia would help defeat that objection to possible geological evidence.

Misleading summary (3, Informative)

mbone (558574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37167766)

Mars rocks have been found on Earth, and it has been a standard assumption in planetary science for some time now that Earth rocks have also been going to Mars by the same mechanism. You wouldn't know it from the summary, but the actual paper [arxiv.org] also predicts a significant rate of mass exchange Earth -> Mars -

Gladman et al. (2005) estimated the collision rate with Mars to be about 2 orders of magnitude lower that found on the basis of our simulations. However, as also noted in their paper, our results for Mars are within the known typical errors of such probability estimations. ... Both results, definite collisions with Mars and Jupiter, are of astrobiological significance,...

Prepare for 2010 Reference! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167772)

"All these worlds are yours to use, Except Europa, attempt no landing there."

Seed life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37167864)

I'm pretty sure humans will have a colony on Europa before any Earth ejacta sprouts up anything of interest...

Re:Seed life? (2)

Yamioni (2424602) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168206)

Naysaying aside, you're likely correct. The composition of the ice shell around Europa is full of materials that could make for easy farming of hyrodgen for energy and oxygen for breathing. Depending on what ends up being underneath that ice shell (is it all ocean, or is there land mass?) it seems at least borderline plausible to terraform the entire moon, generating a considerable atmosphere and making the place comfortably livable by humans. One concern is if there is enough spare oxygen available to form an atmosphere thick enough to trap enough heat from the Sun to raise the ambient temperature to a comfortable point for humans, given the distance from the Sun. Another is dealing with the extreme cold that would be experienced in an eclipse from Jupiter.

I'm quite certain there are people smarter than I that could weigh in on the topic with more merit, but casual observation seems to point in the direction of 'possible'.

Meh. (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168018)

Wake me up if it ever amounts to anything you don't need a microscope to see.

30,000 years? (2)

JoeRobe (207552) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168124)

I've previously heard this quote of organisms surviving for up to 30,000 years in space, but does anyone happen to have a real scientific reference for it? I'm really wondering what can survive that long with no fuel at all, unless the argument is that the whatever rock the organism sits on during its travels through space happens to have some nutrients on it. Even the waterbear still needs some energy after it goes into a cryptobiotic state, right?

Re:30,000 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168706)

I would assume the near absolute-zero temperatures would keep the organisms in a dormant state.

Oh great (2)

neostorm (462848) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168162)

Send a note with it, will you? I hate the thought of bringing up a whole planet of lifeforms just so they can bang their heads and kill one another over the confusion of where they came from and why. ;)

Mars (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37168320)

In the 3+ billion years life has been on Earth I would guess that life from Earth could have gotten to Mars even if it has lower probability than other locales.

So if we find life on Mars, or some moon of a gas giant, do we assume it got their from Earth or not?

Its inconsequencial. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37168870)

Yes, Mars use to sit where the earth is now. The likelihood that it once contained life is most likely. Whats the big deal? It is not likely that any life or even signs of it will be found billions of years later. Its a pipedream for the space people to think its worthy of wasting precious earth's resources to colonize Mars. Its ludimacrous.

Apropos methinks ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37170840)

All these worlds are yours except
Europa
Attempt no
Landing there
User them together
Use them in peace

-- 2010

I don't understand. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37171650)

Earth rocks, the ones closest to our gravity center, can reach far flung space, yet the floating debris above us can't seem to fall down? This does not compute.

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