Astrobiology (general)

The Resilience of Life to Astrophysical Events

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
July 17, 2017
Filed under
The Resilience of Life to Astrophysical Events
Nearby supernova

Much attention has been given in the literature to the effects of astrophysical events on human and land-based life. However, little has been discussed on the resilience of life itself.

Here we instead explore the statistics of events that completely sterilise an Earth-like planet with planet radii in the range 0.5−1.5REarth and temperatures of ∼300K, eradicating all forms of life. We consider the relative likelihood of complete global sterilisation events from three astrophysical sources — supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, large asteroid impacts, and passing-by stars.

To assess such probabilities we consider what cataclysmic event could lead to the annihilation of not just human life, but also extremophiles, through the boiling of all water in Earth’s oceans. Surprisingly we find that although human life is somewhat fragile to nearby events, the resilience of Ecdysozoa such as \emph{Milnesium tardigradum} renders global sterilisation an unlikely event.

David Sloan (Oxford), Rafael Alves Batista (Oxford), Abraham Loeb (Harvard)
(Submitted on 13 Jul 2017)

Comments: To appear in Scientific Reports; 14 pages, 2 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA); High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena (astro-ph.HE); Space Physics (
Cite as: arXiv:1707.04253 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1707.04253v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Rafael Alves Batista
[v1] Thu, 13 Jul 2017 09:18:09 GMT (395kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻