Life on Earth Would Survive Asteroid Impacts, But Not As You May Imagine


Steinn Sigurdsson, a professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University, made a fascinating statement last month, during the Breakthrough Discuss conference hosted by the University of California. During his speech, Sigurdsson discussed the topic of possible asteroid impacts. He and some of his colleagues recently researched the phenomenon using computer simulations, which led them to surprising results.

It seems that if a large enough asteroid hit our planet, destroying the world as we know it, bits and pieces from the surface would be projected into the outer-space and orbit around the sun, eventually finding their way back to Earth. When they do, there is a high probability that they could “reseed” the planet and bring it back to life.

Asteroid impacts would only bring the doom for a period, but life on Earth would come back

During the study, the team of scientists simulated the trajectory of the ejected space in the span of 10 million years. The model showed that most of the material ends up being reabsorbed, but a small percentage of it gets pulled by other passing planet’s gravitational force, changing their trajectory. Some of these end up on planets located in the inner solar system, while 0.1% makes it to the outer solar system, near celestial bodies that could potentially support life, like Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s satellites Enceladus and Titan.

The events that lead to parts of a planet to end up on a different one have been dubbed “cross-contamination.” Based on this theory, many scientists believe that cross-contamination might have happened before, maybe with the asteroid that killed dinosaurs, bringing pieces of biological data to the previously uninhabited planets.

NASA is planning to launch a mission to Europa in the next decade, to gather and analyze samples of its subsurface ocean and search for any life forms. The space agency is also thinking about building a space drone, Dragonfly, to study Titan’s atmosphere. NASA is expected to announce the exact plan by the end of this year.


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