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Proceedings Paper

Survival of microbial life under shock compression: implications for Panspermia
Author(s): M. Burchell
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Paper Abstract

An analysis is carried out of the survival fraction of micro-organisms exposed to extreme shock pressures. A variety of data sources are used in this analysis. The key findings are that survival depends on the behaviour of the cell wall. Below a critical shock pressure there is a relatively slow fall in survival fraction as shock pressures increase. Above the critical threshold survival starts to fall rapidly as shock pressure increases further. The critical shock pressures found here are in the range 2.4 to 20 GPa, and vary not only from organism to organism, but also depend on the growth stage of given organisms, with starved (i.e., no growth) states favoured for survival. At the shock pressures typical of those involved in interplanetary transfer of rocky materials, the survival fractions are found to be small but finite. This lends credence to the idea of Panspermia, i.e. life may naturally migrate through space. Thus for example, Martian meteorites should not a prior be considered as sterile due to the shock processes they have undergone, but their lack of viable micro-organisms either reflects no such life being present at the source at the time of departure or the influence of other hazardous processes such as radiation in space or heating of surfaces during entry into a planetary atmosphere.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 October 2007
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 6694, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X, 669416 (1 October 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.732369
Show Author Affiliations
M. Burchell, Univ. of Kent (United Kingdom)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6694:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology X
Richard B. Hoover; Gilbert V. Levin; Alexei Y. Rozanov; Paul C. W. Davies, Editor(s)

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