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Fossils could be discovered on the moon: Signs of ancient life may be littered across the moon

Date:
July 31, 2014
Source:
University of Kent
Summary:
Physicists have tested what would happen if a piece of rock containing microscopic fossils from Earth was launched into space and hit the surface of the moon. The team turned fossil-filled rock into powder which was mixed with water and frozen to replicate a meteoroid.

Earth's moon.
Credit: NASA/JPL

Kent physicists have tested what would happen if a piece of rock containing microscopic fossils from Earth was launched into space and hit the surface of the moon.

In order to do this, Professor Mark Burchell and researchers from the University's Centre for Astrophysics simulated the condition that fossilised diatoms -- microscopic algae with detailed shells -- might have faced if travelling from earth to the moon.

The team turned fossil-filled rock into powder which was mixed with water and frozen to replicate a meteoroid. The replica meteoroid was then fired into a bag of water using a large gas-powered gun to allow it experience the impact of being launched into orbit, whilst the rapid deceleration and high pressure as it hit the water simulated how it might have smashed into the moon at high speed.

This suggests that if earth meteorites are ever found on the moon -- in the same way that we find lunar meteorites on earth -- then they may contain fossils from Earth's past.

Although this idea has existed for over a decade, the researchers have now shown by simulating the 'explosion' that it may be possible. This could then shed light on what life was like on Earth.

The research has been published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Kent. The original article was written by Katie Newton. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. J. Burchell, K. H. McDermott, M. C. Price, L. J. Yolland. Survival of fossils under extreme shocks induced by hypervelocity impacts. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 2014; 372 (2023): 20130190 DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2013.0190

Cite This Page:

University of Kent. "Fossils could be discovered on the moon: Signs of ancient life may be littered across the moon." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140731101036.htm>.
University of Kent. (2014, July 31). Fossils could be discovered on the moon: Signs of ancient life may be littered across the moon. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140731101036.htm
University of Kent. "Fossils could be discovered on the moon: Signs of ancient life may be littered across the moon." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140731101036.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

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