Search for Sun's sibling may help find cousins of Earth life

   Apr 10, 11:30 am

Washington, Apr 10 (ANI): Astronomers have now focussed their search on not just any life out there in the universe but our distant relatives.

Earth may have seeded life on other planets if an asteroid smacking into Earth sprayed DNA into space, researchers suggest.

Now a team of researchers is searching for siblings of the sun - stars born from the same parent star cluster - whose planets could have been impregnated with Earth life this way.

The sun is thought to have formed around 4.5 billion years ago within a cluster of thousands of baby stars.

After around 1 billion years, this cluster broke up and the sibling stars went their separate ways. But before that point, researchers say, some of these stars may have shared life in the form of bacteria or DNA molecules.

"The idea is if a planet has life, like Earth, and if you hit it with an asteroid, it will create debris, some of which will escape into space," said astronomer Mauri Valtonen of the University of Turku in Finland.

"And if the debris is big enough, like 1 meter across, it can shield life inside from radiation, and that life can survive inside for millions of years until that debris lands somewhere. If it happens to land on a planet with suitable conditions, life can start there."

That means that somewhere out there in the galaxy might be your long-lost cousin.

If such a process ever happened, it was probably while the sun was still in its birth cluster, near enough to other stars that the chances were not negligible that debris bearing samples of Earth microorganisms might smash into another planet.

During the time of the birth cluster, objects in the solar system were under heavy bombardment by comets and asteroids, so researchers say material could have been fairly easily transferred between planets.

Research suggests it's equally possible that Earth itself was seeded with life in such a manner, though neither scenario is considered likely.

To pursue the idea, Valtonen is searching for these sibling stars of the sun.

In a recent study, he analyzed a catalog called HIPPARCOS that recorded the positions and motions of more than 100,000 stars.

Picking out those stars with radial velocities known to be similar to the sun's, Valtonen and his colleagues identified two promising stars, called HIP 87382 and HIP 47399, that also had the same metal content and were at the same evolutionary stage as the sun.

According to the researchers' analysis, there are a few percentage points of probability that these two were born in the same cluster as our sun. Both are about 100 light-years from Earth now.

Valtonen said the next step would be to search for planets around these candidate stars.

"If we find an Earth-type planet, then it'd be a nice target for this new generation of detectors to point at the atmosphere of the planet," Valtonen said.

"If there's a planet and it has signs of life, then we could say perhaps they are relatives in some sense," Valtonen added. (ANI)

Why is Planet Nine so far from us? May 4, 11:32 am
Washington D.C, May 4 (ANI): Evidence thus far may be pointing to the existence of Planet Nine, a Neptune-mass planet in an elliptical orbit 10 times farther from our Sun than Pluto, but the question as to how it ended up in such a distant orbit has baffled theorists.
Full Story
ExoMars 2016 interplanetary mission launched May 3, 11:53 am
New Delhi, May 3 (ANI): The Roscosmos State Corporation and the European Space Agency (ESA) have launched the jointly-developed ExoMars 2016 interplanetary mission, comprising the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli lander, on a Proton rocket from Baikonur, thus marking the first phase in the European-Russian ExoMars cooperation programme.
Full Story
`Tailless` comet from Earth's distant past has returned Apr 30, 12:53 pm
Washington D.C, Apr 30 (ANI): According to a recent study, a unique fragment from Earth's formation has returned after billions of years in cold storage.
Full Story
Most detailed pics of Mars` surface unveiled Apr 27, 1:48 pm
Washington D.C, Apr 27 (ANI): A team of researchers has detailed the surface of Mars, including the location of Beagle-2.
Full Story
Comments