Lithopanspermia – The Terrestrial Input During the Past 550 Million Years
American Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Volume 6, Issue 3, September 2018, Pages: 81-90
Received: Sep. 18, 2018; Accepted: Oct. 25, 2018; Published: Nov. 27, 2018
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Martin Beech, Campion College, the University of Regina, Regina, Canada; Department Physics, the University of Regina, Regina, Canada
Ian M. Coulson, Department Geology, the University of Regina, Regina, Canada
Mark Comte, Department Physics, the University of Regina, Regina, Canada
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An estimate for the minimum amount of terrestrial material deposited into interplanetary space over the past ~550 million years is made. Using the published characteristics of known terrestrial impact craters, it is found that at least 1013 kg of potentially life-bearing matter has been ejected from the Earth’s surface into the inner solar system. This estimate is derived upon a reverse-engineering approach which links the observed crater diameter to impactor size and which employs a set of analytic equations to obtain an estimate of the mass fraction of material ejected, with a speed greater than the Earth’s escape velocity, during the crater-forming process. Of the total amount of terrestrial material ejected into the inner solar system, some 67% can be attributed to the formation of the Chicxulub crater – the largest known crater to have been produced within the Phanerozoic eon. Given a typical asteroid / short-period comet encounter speed of 25 to 28 km/s the ejecta produced in a terrestrial cratering event can, in principle, rapidly find its way onto orbits that intercept the Moon as well those of the planets from Mercury out to Jupiter, thereby populating the solar system with material that harbours viable populations of terrestrial microbes.
Impact Craters, Chicxulub Crater, Impact Ejecta, Lithopanspermia
To cite this article
Martin Beech, Ian M. Coulson, Mark Comte, Lithopanspermia – The Terrestrial Input During the Past 550 Million Years, American Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Vol. 6, No. 3, 2018, pp. 81-90. doi: 10.11648/j.ajaa.20180603.14
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