The origin of life is a question that has baffled generations of scholars. However, the panspermia theory recently received a gigantic boost from NASA scientists. This theory proposes that life didn’t originate on earth…it came from outer space.
What is Panspermia?
Panspermia is the theory that extremely hardy forms of life, such as bacteria, exist on certain meteors and asteroids. If parts of these space rocks land on a suitable planet, the bacteria become active and begin an evolutionary process. While panspermia doesn’t address the origin of life, it suggests a mechanism for how it may spread throughout the universe.
Although panspermia isn’t a new theory, it’s gained recent attention thanks to the work of Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe also popularized the idea that new diseases and the genetic material needed for macroevolution continue to enter earth’s atmosphere on a regular basis. Still, their theories are generally viewed with skepticism by the scientific community. Now, thanks to NASA scientists, that might change.
New Evidence for Panspermia?
Yesterday, NASA announced that it has found evidence that “certain meteorites can carry DNA components created in space”. Scientists first discovered DNA components on space rocks in the 1960s. However, they were never certain about whether the components came from space or from earth contamination.
The most recent study looked at twelve carbon-rich meteorites, nine of which were found in Antarctica. Researchers discovered adenine and guanine, two of the four nucleobases that comprise DNA, on several of the rocks. In addition, they found three nucleobase analog molecules. The presence of the analogs, which are rarely found on earth, suggests that the nucelobases arrived from outer space and perhaps, were formed there as well.
“You would not expect to see these nucleobase analogs if contamination from terrestrial life was the source, because they’re not used in biology. However, if asteroids are behaving like chemical ‘factories’ cranking out prebiotic material, you would expect them to produce many variants of nucleobases, not just the biological ones, because of the wide variety of ingredients and conditions in each asteroid.” ~ Michael Callahan, Astrobiologist
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
This latest discovery means that the three ingredients for life – nucleobases, amino acids, and amphiphilic compounds – have all been found on meteorites. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that these molecules formed due to chemistry that occurred in space.
“The research gives support to the theory that a “kit” of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life.” ~ Michael Callahan, Astrobiologist
For centuries, mankind has searched the skies for alien life. Now, it appears that it might have been right here on earth all along.