The massive asteroid that slammed into Earth some 66 million years ago is often—and understandably—considered a vicious killer. But new research into the cosmic effects of the impact suggest quite the opposite. That deadly asteroid might have actually blasted life throughout the solar system.
As a team of researchers argue in the latest issue of Astrobiology, the so-called Chicxulub impact blasted enough debris into space to spread Earth's life as far away as Mars and the moons of Jupiter. That's not even the coolest part, though. The idea of life floating from planet to planet on the backs of asteroids is not a new one—it's called panspermia—but this new analysis spanning 10 million years of history is the most extensive study yet.
The idea that life hitched a ride to Mars is pretty far-fetched, of course, and is, at the moment, pure speculation; but astronomers, for one, seem pretty taken aback by the new research. "I'd be surprised if life hasn't gotten to Mars," Rachel Worth, lead author of the study, told BBC News. "It's beyond the scope of our study. But it seems reasonable that at some point some Earth organisms have made it over there."
It's also all the more reason to believe that we're overprotecting Mars by spending billions to sterilize our spacecraft before sending them there. Seems like nature did the job of contaminating the place for us millions of years ago. Or was it vice versa? [Astrobiology via BBC]