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Picture this: A bacteria-carrying asteroid is ejected from the center of the galaxy into the far reaches of space only to be "captured" by a distant solar system, potentially bringing life to a new world.

It might sound like the stuff of pulp science fiction, but the evidence suggests it might happen far more often than scientists ever thought, according to Idan Ginsburg.

A postdoctoral scholar at the Institute for Theory and Computation, Ginsburg is the lead author, along with post-doctoral fellow Manasvi Lingam and Abraham "Avi" Loeb, the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science and Chair of the Astronomy Department, of a study that makes the most comprehensive calculation ever of the likelihood of that process—known as "panspermia"—occurring in the Milky Way.

What they found, Ginsburg said, was surprising: Calculations showed there may be as many as 10 trillion asteroid-sized objects carrying . The work also suggested there may be as many as 100 million objects the size of Saturn's moon Enceladus, which is about 500 kilometers in diameter, and as many as 1,000 Earth-sized objects also carrying life or prebiotic material.

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Category: Science