Panspermia is the hypothesis that life exists throughout the Universe, distributed by comets, asteroids and even as dessicated microscopic particles.
The theory is not new. The first known mention of the term was in the writings of the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Anaxagoras. In the nineteenth century it was again revived in modern form by several scientists, including Jöns Jacob Berzelius (1834), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia – cite_note-4 Kelvin (1871), Hermann von Helmholtz (1879) and, somewhat later, by Svante Arrhenius (1903). Much to the surprise of most people even Charles Darwin was a proponent.
Panspermia is not meant to address how life began, just the propagation method that may cause its sustenance.
Evidence for the Panspermia hypothesis will include finding microbes such as viruses, bacteria, mitochondria and even as yet undefined nano-microbes (dormant, live or fossilized) in comets and meteorites, on other planets and moons; and even on Mars.
i.e. Finding life anywhere off earth, will be considered as evidence not inconsistent with the Panspermia hypothesis.
The new NASA “Vision for Space Exploration Initiative” includes an explicit directive to “search for the evidence of Life on Mars”, the NASA missions’ strategy moves from “follow the water” to “search for the signs of life”.
NASA leading Astrobiologist Chris McKay plays an important role in planning the “Difficult Endeavor of Seeking the Signs of Life. His short video is well worth a watch.
Windback to 13:02 to see his thoughts on “Life found on Meteorites”.
FREE Academic Paper
I recommend a FREE academic paper written by my colleague W.E. Smith which summarizes the status of Panspermia in 2013. We consider last year (2013) was a watershed year in the long history of Panspermia, as this was the year when NASA and the Kepler Mission announced there were at least 144 billion earth-like planets around sun-like stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. This was the point that Panspermia finally moved into mainstream science.
As the content of Wikipedia is so easily changed by unknown editors with sometimes dubious intent, this paper defines Panspermia using the Popper methodology for scientific hypotheses. It then defines the “Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model in 2013” and lays out the propositions around which the growing evidence can be tested.
This paper freezes in time the 2013 status of the Panspermia hypothesis to ensure others may not rewrite this “history”.
I confirm the following description (taken from the above paper with the original citations from the paper) of the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model of the Panspermia Hypothesis reflects my design and is an accurate description of my model in 2014.
The HOYLE-WICKRAMASINGHE MODEL OF THE PANSPERMIA HYPOTHESIS
Panspermia is the hypothesis that life exists throughout the Universe, distributed by meteoroids, asteroids, comets and planetoids.
The Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model of the Panspermia Hypothesis defines the following propositions to guide the investigation:
1. that dormant viruses and desiccated DNA/RNA can survive unprotected in interplanetary space (Radiopanspermia)(11)
2. that the seeds of life can survive protected from cosmic rays in asteroids, comets and meteors (Lithopanspermia)(12)(13)(14)
3. that the seeds of life are promulgated from solar system to solar system by a process of comet and asteroid collision with planets; matter ejection from planet to local planets and Moons; and then onwards and outwards from that solar system to an adjacent solar system (13)(15)
In the above propositions of the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model, the “seeds of life” include biological microparticles such as bacteria, viruses, spores and pollen. This specifically includes:
1. desiccated and/or partially inactivated DNA/RNA (14) (16) (17)
2. live, dormant or fossilized non-cellular life (viruses) (12) (16) (17) (14) (15) (18) (19)
3. live, dormant or fossilized cellular life (bacteria, archaea) (19) (20)
i.e. In the more general Panspermia Hypothesis these “seeds of life” are not as clearly defined as in the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model. Also in the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model, LithoPanspermia includes comets. It proposes that comets are the major promulgation “carrier” of the seeds of life, especially from solar system to solar system, and proposes that the center of comets is mostly water, not ice, an ideal environment for bacteria and viruses.
Early in 2014, we awaited the spectroscopy results from ALMA aimed at the Comet ISON inbound in late 2013. ALMA’s (Tony Remijan’s) results were interesting but less than exciting. On a positive vein, a team in Belarus confirmed that there were meteor showers in early January 2014 as the Earth passed through the ISON tail. But it does seem like the most exciting results could be from the sublimation event in November 2013 when the COMET was reduced to nano particles and these particles were blasted away from the SUN in a cone of debris fired away from the SUN by the solar wind. There are no known publications which estimate the dimensions and direction of the cone and so we do not know at this point if this cone overlapped the location of the planet Earth DURING THE NEXT FEW DAYS. The ISON-Pathogen Conjecture does consider the slim possibility that RNA/DNA particles did fall on earth during this period.
This year we have the Oct 19, 2014 Mars Maven Mission directing its experimental capability, especially its spectroscopy, to long period COMET Siding Spring. Detection of RNA/DNA complex molecules is a possibility and the very fact we have such capability located in an ideal place and time (ie in MARS orbit, Oct 19, 2014 with the Comet passing close by), is historic in itself.
Progress in 2015
Early in 2015, we were delighted to finally publish our paper “Convergence to Panspermia” which had been in development for two years. We decided to use a relatively new online journal. HypothesisJournal.org 2014, 12(1): e9, doi:10.5779/hypothesis.v12i1.358 – See the full paper online at : http://www.hypothesisjournal.com/?p=2411#sthash.0CUX7xH9.dpuf This paper estimates the time to seed the galaxy with life.
The Abstract : New discoveries in astronomy and biology continue to point to Panspermia as the most likely mode of the origin of life on Earth. This paper builds upon the work done by W.M. Napier, 2004 (1), and re-estimates the time for the seeding of the galaxy given the latest 2013 estimates from the Kepler Mission data. We present this “thought experiment” in the form of an opinion paper. We calculate that, from a single point source of origin, the full colonisation of the entire Milky Way galaxy by primitive microbes will take place in a timescale less than the average age of low-mass stars in the galactic disc, 1010 yr (i.e., 10 billion years ago; bya). Our calculation is independent of the location of the “point-source”. The writers believe the probability of the point-source being Earth is infinitesimal compared with it being elsewhere in the galaxy.
In February 2015 a collaboration team of yours truly, Wickramasinghe NC, and Wainwright M, Smith WE, Tokoro G, Al Mufti S and Wallis MK published what we consider a breakthrough paper, peer reviewed then published by Astrobiology Outreach 2015,3:126. The paper is entitled Rosetta Studies of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko: Prospects for Establishing Cometary Biology.
We discuss a wide range of data emerging from the Rosetta Mission that all point indirectly to biological activity in Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The existence of cracks and fissures on a smooth surface terrain apparently resealed, as well as early outgassing activity are consistent with the existence of subsurface lakes in which biological activity builds up high pressures of volatile gases that sporadically ruptures a frozen icy crust. While microorganisms probably require liquid water bodies for their early colonising of a comet, they can inhabit cracks in ice and sub-crustal snow, especially if they contain antifreeze salts and biopolymers. Some organisms metabolise at temperatures as low as 230 K, explaining the coma of Comet 97P out at 3.9AU and our prediction is that they would become increasingly active in the near-surface layers as the comet approaches its 1.3 AU perihelion. The detection of an overwhelming abundance of complex organic molecules at the surface by Philae and through IR imaging by the Rosetta orbiter is most significant.