Statistical Signatures of Panspermia in Exoplanet Surveys

Preprint, Article English OPEN
Lin, Henry Wanjune ; Loeb, Abraham (2015)

A fundamental astrobiological question is whether life can be transported between extrasolar systems. We propose a new strategy to answer this question based on the principle that life which arose via spreading will exhibit more clustering than life which arose spontaneously. We develop simple statistical models of panspermia to illustrate observable consequences of these excess correlations. Future searches for biosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets could test these predictions: a smoking gun signature of panspermia would be the detection of large regions in the Milky Way where life saturates its environment interspersed with voids where life is very uncommon. In a favorable scenario, detection of as few as $\sim 25$ biologically active exoplanets could yield a $5\sigma$ detection of panspermia. Detectability of position-space correlations is possible unless the timescale for life to become observable once seeded is longer than the timescale for stars to redistribute in the Milky Way.
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