Intelligent Design Origin Of Life

Did life get started on planetesimals before Earth formed?

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Artist’s concept of the asteroid 16 Psyche/SSL, ASU, P. Rubin, NASA, JPL-Caltech

Planetesimals (minute planets that might come together to form a larger one) might have had all the building blocks of life, according to an Arizona State University planetary scientist:

And clement conditions may have persisted inside some planetesimals for tens of millions of years — perhaps long enough for life to emerge, said [Lindy] Elkins-Tanton, the director of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the principal investigator of NASA’s upcoming mission to the odd metallic asteroid Psyche…

Life as we know it requires three main ingredients: liquid water, organic molecules and an energy source. Planetesimals, which formed within 1.5 million years of the solar system’s birth, likely featured all three, Elkins-Tanton said. Mike Wall, “Life May Have Evolved Before Earth Finished Forming” at

This sounds like hype for the Psyche project. But she has a point: Not all planetesimals were necessarily involved in catastrophic collisions.

“This is meant to be just a kind of a thought problem for us all to consider,” Elkins-Tanton said. “Could life actually have arisen on planetesimals? Could there be evidence for life in meteorites that we have not known to look for? And if this is so, how could they have been spread through the solar system — and many, many unanswerable implications of that possibility.”Life May Have Evolved Before Earth Finished Forming” at

We’re quite happy to consider it, Dr. Elkins-Tanton. But then we must also consider this: If life got started so quickly back then—and there is no evidence of it ever just getting started somehow, time after time, since then—either life was an event triggered from outside nature as we know it or it was implicit in the Big Bang (but that would point to some kind of encoded information). In a finite universe, the closer we get to the beginning of things, the more evident this problem becomes.

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See also: Globally famous chemist James Tour on the origin of life

Researchers: Origin of life more likely in ponds, assisted by lightning, than oceans

NASA Recreates The Origin Of Life And It’s Totally Shocking What’s shocking, in this case, is the hype.

Ancient Cataclysms And Modern Conflicts In Origin Of Life Studies

The Science Fictions series at your fingertips – origin of life What we do and don’t know about the origin of life.

5 Replies to “Did life get started on planetesimals before Earth formed?

  1. 1
    vmahuna says:

    Any combination that worked on a planetesimal would have worked twice as well on a real live ISO-certified Planet. Or, vice versa, any theory that don’t work on Early Earth also don’t work on the planetesimals.
    Smallish planets will have neither the necessary Van Allen Belts nor wondrous deep atmosphere. So proposing smallish planets as a BETTER start than REAL, major league planets is about as stupid an idea as you can get. But, hey, people MIGHT read your paper.
    But Life was INSTALLED on Earth, a planet that was CREATED for the specific purpose of being the home for Life in the universe. There are of course a number of problems with that theory. The BIGGEST of these problems being that it negates ALL of the other theories. And if a guy can’t propose a crazy new theory, how’s he gonna get FUNDING?? I mean, you can can be dead wrong from the get go, but if some idiot gave you half a million pazoozas to ELABORATE on your hare-brained idea, then you still get the half a million pazoozas.

  2. 2

    Vmahuna #1,
    No, it is not true that inventing life on a planetesimal is even better on a planet. There could be, for example, chemical reactions that proceed in a vacuum but not in the atmosphere of a planet.
    But you are right, why should we require planets or planetesimals for OOL (origin of life)? I have a series of papers about discoveries on comets that suggest that comets have all the right properties for life, as well as being more numerous than planetesimals, including the all-important feature of being well-sampled. That is, we have roughly 2 dozen comet fragments recovered from meteorite falls, as well as 4-5 visits to comets: Halley, Borelly, Tempel, and C-G. Every one of the s/c flybys returned data suggesting life. Liquid water on all of them, thick crusts, organics, molecular oxygen on C-G. Just a zoo of properties that cannot be explained without biology.
    So, did life just fortuitously originate on each comet individually? Spontaneous generation anyone? Or is it likely that life moves from comet to comet, from planetesimal to planetesimal, from planet to planet? I’d put my money on transport.

  3. 3
    ET says:

    Robert Sheldon:

    I have a series of papers about discoveries on comets that suggest that comets have all the right properties for life,…

    Except for the fact that no one knows what the “right properties for life” are. But yes, all of the molecules found in living organisms are also found elsewhere in the universe, in the (apparent) absence of living organisms.

  4. 4
    Brother Brian says:

    Even if we find life on planetismals, or comets, or meteorites, we will never be able to conclude that this is how life got to earth. Even if we formulate some time of primordial ooze that results in some type of life, all we can conclude is that life can develop naturally given that starting point. It doesn’t mean that it is how it happened on earth. The best we can hope for is to come up with a handful of scenarios that have potential as an explanation.

  5. 5
    ET says:

    If we find actual life on planetesimals, or comets, or meteorites, then that would totally change our view on what it takes to sustain living organisms.

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