Fast litho-panspermia in the habitable zone of the TRAPPIST-1 system

Research paper by Sebastiaan Krijt, Timothy J. Bowling, Richard J. Lyons, Fred J. Ciesla

Indexed on: 05 Apr '17Published on: 05 Apr '17Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics


With several short-period, Earth-mass planets in the habitable zone, the TRAPPIST-1 system potentially allows litho-panspermia to take place on very short timescales. We investigate the efficiency and speed of inter-planetary material transfer resulting from impacts onto the habitable zone planets. By simulating trajectories of impact ejecta from their moment of ejection until (re-)accretion, we find that transport between the habitable zone planets is fastest for ejection velocities around and just above planetary escape velocity. At these ejection velocities, ${\sim}10\%$ of the ejected material reaches another habitable zone planet within $10^2\mathrm{~yr}$, indicating litho-panspermia can be 4 to 5 orders of magnitude faster in TRAPPIST-1 than in the Solar System.