Life may have traveled to Earth from afar, aboard an interstellar visitor like the weird, cigar-shaped object ‘Oumuamua, researchers say. ‘Oumuamua, which zoomed through the inner solar system last fall, is the first confirmed interstellar object ever observed in our neck of the woods. But that doesn’t mean it was the first ever to get here — far from it, in fact.
“We think that something like an ‘Oumuamua … there’s always one within about 1 AU of the sun at any given time,” planetary scientist Bill Bottke said last month during a panel discussion at the Breakthrough Discuss conference at the University of California, Berkeley. (One AU, or astronomical unit, is the average Earth-sun distance — about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers.)
“And that actually has some really interesting implications,” added Bottke, who directs the Department of Space Studies at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. One such implication centers on the role that ‘Oumuamua-like objects could play in the transfer of life from world to world around the cosmos, an idea known as panspermia.