DailyDirt: All Kinds Of Bugs Living In Outer Space?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Panspermia isn’t a crazy idea, especially when we seem to keep finding extremophiles that can survive in very harsh environments. The components of life may be traveling between planets or solar systems at a non-zero rate, seeding the universe with living materials. That said, life is still relatively fragile, but there may be some optimism in finding living specimens elsewhere than Earth. (First, though, we have to make sure we’re not the ones contaminating our own solar system.) Here are just a few links on various organisms that might survive a trip in space — without a space ship.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: All Kinds Of Bugs Living In Outer Space?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Space is vast. Even with gravity pulling stuff in, I’m not sure microbial life could span multiple solar systems, just because of the sheer distance involved. What are the odds that something traveling out of a solar system at a random trajectory will actually hit any other solar system in any reasonable time frame? (And since hitting a sun obviously isn’t going to work, it will somehow have to hit something in that system that *isn’t* the largest object with the most gravity.)

And sure, some spores can survive 18 months in space. That’s fine for getting to or from Mars. But does that translate to surviving the centuries or millennia it would take to actually get to another solar system on something that doesn’t have propulsion? And does that translate to surviving an uncontrolled reentry?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I’m not sure microbial life could span multiple solar systems, just because of the sheer distance involved.”

Some microbial life (some virii, for instance), revert to a nonliving form when in environments that don’t suit them. They become, in essence, a clump of chemicals. They could, in theory, survive that way indefinitely and reconstitute when conditions become favorable again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Some microbial life (some virii, for instance)

Setting aside whether a virus is “life” or not… even if a virus were to survive travel to another solar system, once it got there it wouldn’t have anything to infect, so it would remain dormant forever. I’m therefore going to say that a virus doesn’t count. Even a “clump of chemicals” can be affected by the cold/heat/radiation/physical force/time involved in an interstellar trip followed by a crash landing.

But the sheer distance involved means that even if something capable of surviving the trip is launched, the odds of actually hitting something are vanishingly low – everything is so far away that almost no paths will actually hit anything. According to the latest XKCD What If (which is about whether a beam of light will hit something) “89,999 times out of 90,000, your beam will pass right out of the galaxy without hitting anything. When it does hit something, it will almost always be the Sun or the Moon.” “The odds of hitting one of Jupiter’s moons, for example, are on the order of one in a trillion. Stars are even worse. Your odds of hitting any star at all on your way out of the galaxy are almost zero, even if you aim for the core.”

DogBreath says:

Time to test out the Streptococcus Mitis therory once and for all

Perhaps Streptococcus Mitis did survive on the Moon for 2.5 years.

Reports of Streptococcus mitis on the Moon

Countervailing evidence against the secondary contamination hypothesis is the fact that, according to Lieutenant Colonel Fred Mitchell, lead author of the original 1971 paper there was a significant delay before the sampled culture began growing: this is consistent with the sampled bacteria consisting of dormant spores, but not if the sampled culture was the result of fresh contamination. In addition, according to Mitchell, the microbes clung exclusively to the foam during culturing, which would not have happened had there been contamination. Furthermore, if fresh contamination had occurred, millions of individual bacteria and “a representation of the entire microbial population would be expected”; instead, only a few individual bacteria were sampled, and only from a single species.

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