Comet probes reveal
evidence of origin of life,
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One trillion trillion (10 to the power of 24)
Public release date: 14-Aug-2007
Comet probes reveal evidence of origin of life,
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Recent probes inside comets show it is over-
whelmingly likely that life began in space,
according to a new paper by Cardiff Univer-
Now the team claims that findings from space
probes sent to investigate passing comets
reveal how the first organisms could have
The 2005 Deep Impact mission to Comet Tem-
pel 1 discovered a mixture of organic and clay
particles inside the comet. One theory for the
origins of life proposes that clay particles
acted as a catalyst, converting simple organic
molecules into more complex structures.
The 2004 Stardust Mission to Comet Wild 2
found a range of complex hydrocarbon mole-
cules - potential building blocks for life.
The Cardiff team suggests that radioactive ele-
ments can keep water in liquid form in comet
interiors for millions of years, making them
potentially ideal "incubators" for early life.
They also point out that the billions of comets
in our solar system and across the galaxy con-
tain far more clay than the early Earth did.
The researchers calculate the odds of life start-
ing on Earth rather than inside a comet at one
trillion trillion (10 to the power of 24) to one
"The findings of the comet missions, which
surprised many, strengthen the argument for
panspermia. We now have a mechanism for
how it could have happened. All the necessary
elements - clay, organic molecules and water -
are there. The longer time scale and the greater
mass of comets make it overwhelmingly more
likely that life began in space than on earth."
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