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Proceedings Paper

The expanding horizons of cosmic life
Author(s): Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe; J. V. Narlikar; J. T. Wickramasinghe; Milton Wainwright
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Paper Abstract

The conceptual boundaries of life are rapidly expanding far beyond the confines of our planet to encompass an ever-widening region of the universe. Complex organic molecules in interstellar dust and comets appear most plausibly to be biologically derived, or at least closely related spectroscopically and structurally to such material. A de novo origin of life from non-living material is reckoned to have so minuscule a probability that its occurrence once in the universe can be considered miracle enough. The widespread distribution of similar material (e.g with the characteristics of the diffuse infrared bands and 2175 absorption features) throughout the galaxy and in external galaxies adds weight to the theory of panspermia, where it is supposed that the components of life at a generic level are readily transferred from one place to another. Spectroscopic evidence consistent with life extends to redshifts z=0.83, and from elemental abundance studies alone (e.g, of C, O and metals) in distant galaxies the possibility of cosmic life extends to redshifts as high as z=2.7.

Paper Details

Date Published: 26 February 2003
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 4859, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology V, (26 February 2003); doi: 10.1117/12.459301
Show Author Affiliations
Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe, Cardiff Ctr. for Astrobiology (United Kingdom)
J. V. Narlikar, Inter-Univ. Ctr. for Astronomy and Astrophysics (India)
J. T. Wickramasinghe, Univ. of Bath (United Kingdom)
Milton Wainwright, Univ. of Sheffield (United Kingdom)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4859:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology V
Richard B. Hoover; Alexei Yu. Rozanov; Roland R. Paepe, Editor(s)

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