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FQXi BLOGS
February 22, 2018

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Impact [refresh]
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Blogger William Orem wrote on Dec. 11, 2008 @ 22:38 GMT


Remember my radical idea from last August? This was the suggestion that microbial life might be lying dormant in the centers of some craters on the moon, having been transferred there, panspermia-style, via impactors originating elsewhere in the Solar System (or beyond). Perhaps Copernicus crater is right now home to a colony of alien bacteria, and the first samples of extraterrestrial...

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Count Iblis wrote on Dec. 12, 2008 @ 17:11 GMT
Some scientists have proposed that complex molecules may have evolved inside comets and then delivered to Earth via glancing impacts or just via the comets shedding dust that than make it to Earth.

The very cold conditions inside comets make them ideal places to cook up complex molecules. In a test tube, the chemical reactions will produce the most stable compounds. You cannot make complex moleculs of which the intermedary products would be very unstable.

Inside a comet a molecule can react with another molecule in its immediate vicinity, without being bothered by oter molecules that are further away. This allows the formation of large molecules which will in general be very unstable at room temperatures. But some of these unstable molecules may then combine to form more stable molecules.

If the comet is kicked out of the Oort cloud and ends up in an elliptical orbit bringing it close to the Sun for short periods, then during the brief warm periods inside the comets, the unstable complex molecules will be destroyed, the more stable molecules may be able to survive. What may also happen is that different unstable molecules that are nstable on a time scale of a few hours may combine to form a molecule that is stable on a time scale of months. These more stable molecules will then be able to survive the brief warm period

Then, the comet moves away from the Sun, and reactions will be limited to close neighbors again. Cosmic rays may cause muations at greater disctances from the Sun. Molecules can then form unstable combinations with impunity again until the next warm period arrives.

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Blogger William Orem wrote on Dec. 22, 2008 @ 21:20 GMT
Count –

By your command.

I had a conversation with Max Wallis at the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology in Wales a few years back during which he made a compelling case for exactly this possibility. Asteroids, as he said, “are pretty dead,” whereas

“I think comets can form an environment in their interior in which elementary life can replicate, survive and travel in a sheltered environment to another stellar system.”

That’s a quotation that appears in the article I was writing at the time, “What If Life On Earth Did Not Begin On Earth?” which is now online at Red Ice, if you are interested.

This Discover article is also fun. “Intersetellar clouds of gas are impregnated with organic molecules . . .”

William

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Count Iblis wrote on Jan. 2, 2009 @ 22:53 GMT
William, thanks for the links to these interesting articles!

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