My pal Paul Gilster of Centauri Dreams expands on the discussion about panspermia and a Japanese experiment to be conducted on the International Space Station on his blog yesterday:
We’re talking panspermia, the idea that life can survive long journeys through space to seed other planets (a notion Hoyle addressed in 1982’s Evolution from Space). The apotheosis of the concept is in the realms between the stars, as Stapledon and Hoyle both assumed. We already know that materials, though not necessarily life, can move between planets in our own Solar System, as shown by compelling evidence for Martian meteorites. But interstellar journeys are of another order, the distances so vast that the question of survival dominates the debate…
…There is no way at this juncture to prove whether or not life began on Earth this way, but it’s a concept that demands study. One way to investigate it is to work with microbes in near-Earth orbit, as a Japanese team now proposes to do aboard the International Space Station in an experiment called Tanpopo…
The discovery of microbes in space would hardly prove the concept of panspermia, for any materials at these altitudes could well have come from Earth. But a positive result could tell us more about how life manages to persist in the most hostile environments. The Tanpopo (’dandelion’) experiment will examine tiny particles captured onto an aerogel, returning them to Earth for study of their makeup and possible microbes. Survival at ISS altitudes would definitely give panspermia advocates a boost while forcing us to contemplate the possibility that life began elsewhere.
I believe the experiment will be a success. It’s good to see a time honored theory on how life could be spread throughout the Universe finally has its chance to be a proven fact.
Here’s a piece of trivia I didn’t know, today is the first anniversary of the Carnival of Space. This week’s edition is hosted by Henry Cate of Why Homeschool, the originator of said carnival, which is number 52 of course:
Welcome to the Carnival of Space, the anniversary edition. A year ago I launched the first Carnival of Space. It is wonderful, and a bit overwhelming, to see how the carnival has grown.
Fraser Cain of Universe Today has done a wonderful job in keeping the carnival going. I am grateful for the chance to host the first anniversary edition of the carnival.
The theme for this carnival will be space related television shows. These television shows have helped to generate and build interest for going into space.
This was a great post! Anyone of my generation will instantly recognize the shows Henry put up.
But it also saddens me in that my generation has given up on the dream and became jaded with space exploration. Why Homeschool, and the successor, Universe Today, have been providing a great service in educating and stirring interest with space exploration in the younger generation.
This has been out for a few days, but I’ll put the news here anyway because of a spirited debate on New Scientist.com’s comment board:
A mammoth black hole has been discovered fleeing its host galaxy at high speed, according to a controversial new study. The galactic eviction may be the result of a violent merger between two black holes…
…astronomers may have identified the first known case of a supermassive black hole flung from its host galaxy. Stefanie Komossa of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, led the team, which combed through observations of galaxies by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)…
They found what they believe is the signature of an ejected supermassive black hole in the form of a quasar called SDSS J0927+2943. Quasars are extremely bright, compact objects thought to be galaxies in which a supermassive black hole is feeding at a prodigious rate and glowing brightly as a result…
Ejected massive objects like planets, suns and now black holes have been observed over the last few years courtesy of the Hubble Telescope. All of which are theorized as being natural phenomena and little else is known other than great gravitational forces are involved and the ejected objects are travelling at break-neck speeds relative to their surrounding environment(s). Often the measured speeds (best estimates) are measured in thousands of kilometers a second.
Sure, I guess the speeds could be the result of how massive the objects are before they are ejected, that makes a certain amount of sense. But I am often reminded of how we use gravitational slingshots to increase speeds cheaply and reduce travel times of our space probes to the Outer Solar System.
Maybe when we observe these speeding cosmic curiosities we should project their flight path and see where they might end up at.
We could be surprised.