“Life could spread from host star to host star in a pattern similar to the outbreak of an epidemic.”
Scientists haven’t yet figured out whether life is capable of surviving the extreme conditions found in space and spreading to other stars — a controversial theory known as panspermia.
However, astrophysicists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics believe that if panspermia is possible, life would spread out in a characteristic pattern.
Henry Lin, the lead author of new research that has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, compared the phenomenon to the outbreak of an epidemic.
“If there’s a virus, you have a good idea that one of your neighbors will have a virus too,” he told Smithsonian Magazine. “If the Earth is seeding life, or vice versa, there’s a good chance immediate neighbors will also have signs of life.”
The research suggests that there are two ways intelligent life can spread across the universe. The first option is for living things to travel intentionally. The second is through a natural process in which comets and asteroids serve as transfer vehicles for biological matter. (Some scientists believe that meteors are responsible for bringing the first primordial life to Earth.)
If the “seeds” of one living planet reach a habitable planet orbiting a neighboring star, according to the paper, they can take root. Over time, the result of this process would be a series of life-bearing oases dotting the galactic landscape.
“In a sense, the Milky Way galaxy would become infected with pockets of life,” Avi Loeb, the other author of the paper, said in a press release.
Lin and Loeb note in their paper that even if Earth is the only inhabited planet right now, interstellar travel by humans may one day lead to colonization of the galaxy.
“The question that awaits is whether primitive life has already spread efficiently, or whether it will have to wait for ‘intelligent’ life to make the voyage,” they write.
Also on HuffPost:
The view won’t last forever!
In the quarter-century that it’s been eyeing the cosmos, the Hubble Space Telescope has taken some pretty spectacular photos. But few are as dramatic as a new image (above) of what the space agency termed “a dying star’s final moments.”
In more down-to-Earth terms, the image shows NGC 6565, a planetary nebula in the constellation Sagittarius. Planetary nebulas are glowing shells of gas given off by old stars at the end of their lives.
And the term “moments” is perhaps a bit of a stretch, as the star’s death is unfolding over a period that will last tens of thousands of years. At the end of that span of time, the star’s light will fall off dramatically and the nebula will fade from view.
For now, enjoy!
Previous research held that supernovas–explosions of stars in their death throes–spewed out massive amounts of dust into the early universe. However, astronomers didn’t know if that dust was able to withstand shockwaves from the explosion to serve as fodder for planets and stars to form.
Now, for the first time, an international team of astronomers has directly observed a cloud of cosmic dust that did survive in the turbulent environment of a supernova remnant, providing support for the theory that supernovas produced the vast amount of cosmic dust in the early universe.
“Our observations reveal a particular cloud produced by a supernova explosion 10,000 years ago contains enough dust to make 7,000 Earths,” lead researcher Dr. Ryan Lau, a postdoctoral associate for astronomy at Cornell, said in a written statement.
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Posted with permission from iDigital Times
The spring equinox, also known as the first day of spring, falls on Friday, Mar. 20. Not only is the day special because of the start of the new season, but it is also the first solar eclipse of 2015 and according to Universe Today, this is the first time since 1662 that a total solar eclipse coincides with the spring equinox.
“The dark umbral shadow cone of the moon will trace a curved path primarily over the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, beginning off the southern tip of Greenland and then winding its way counterclockwise to the northeast, passing between Iceland and the United Kingdom,” reports NBC News.
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