The Implications of 'Oumuamua on Panspermia


  • David Cao Aspiring Scientists’ Summer Internship Program Intern
  • Dr. Michael Summers Aspiring Scientists’ Summer Internship Program Primary Mentor



Panspermia is the theory that life in the form of microorganisms can transfer across space on objects such as asteroids and comets and eventually spread to other planets. Space harbors an incredible number of these objects, but they must be large enough to protect microorganisms from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Past models estimated the likelihood of discovering various asteroids and comets, but the unexpected discovery of the comet-like ‘Oumuamua proved these models incorrect and outdated. Based on data from the recent discovery of ‘Oumuamua, we derived new equations that show how much meteorite mass given a minimum radius impacts Earth annually. Gravitational focusing was considered in the calculations, and factors for survivability such as extreme changes in acceleration were analyzed. Results showed that millions of kilograms of mass impact Earth annually, and given ideal living conditions, microorganisms can survive. Our results, therefore, indicate that panspermia, regardless natural or directed, is possible.





College of Science: Department of Physics and Astronomy