Can viruses and microbes traverse space? The theory of Panspermia

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With all the focus on the Coronavirus, it made me wonder how viruses would cope in space generally. This led on to other questions like “do we contaminate other worlds with Earth based life?” and “can alien bacteria and viruses thrive and infect us on Earth?”. Here are my findings!

Image Credits: NASA/ESO/ESA/Pixabay
Music Credits: YouTube Library – Mist

Lee Rosevere and Daniel Birch – Sagittarius A

  1. Celeste Celeste

    good video

  2. astodon

    Earth is in space, so yes.

  3. Mike kirock

    Panspermia is a very viable theory. We are quite literally made of star dust, so why not have frozen dna from another star system too? The latest pictures from Ultima Thule give rise to a planetary system formation that is more gentle and not so violent and molten rock scenario. So it maybe possible life on Earth IS alien already. A Twlight Zone episode maybe?

  4. MArDeN PeRes

    luv ur videos..

  5. Augusto Lanzini

    Oragnic Compound

  6. NightCrawler1000

    Nice video Astrum πŸ‘

  7. Lukas w.

    How to go viral

  8. F James

    I don’t think so…or perhapas….it’s crazy

  9. Gaston Possel

    I don’t like the idea of back panspermia, because while it may be plausible, it moves the origin of earth-life away of our reach to study. Ancient Earth had the right environment to host the origin of life (we can speculate whether Ancient Mars had it). Forward panspermia on the other hand seems inevitable. It may had happened in the past by impacts, and surely will happen by robotic missions, should our extremophiles find any suitable environment .

  10. Martin HΓΌhn

    Overprotection of Mars? That ist a strange idea. If we find microbes there one day and they fit the profile of a recent contamination, the scientific value of the discovery would be close to zero. If we find a contamination that is millions of years old, it tells us, that panspermia without human influence is really a thing and allows us to study millions of years of independent evolution. And if we find independently evolved life there, the scientific benefit can be tremendious.

  11. Swiss Army Cheese

    There are several organisms that have been tested to be able to survive ejection, vacuum, and re-entry. When we consider the fact that only a small amount of bacterial cells need to survive a journey in order to inoculate a new location, and the immense age of both life itself and our solar system, I find it hard to imagine that there has not been some biotic transfer between celestial bodies at some point.

  12. Chuck perez


  13. Calum Brook Nicolson

    I was wondering if Earth was going to need to evacuate from the pandemic, and Fraser Cain says that we can’t.

  14. psammiad

    Everything only lives for the purpose of reproducing – that’s the selfish gene for you.

  15. v10moped

    First Avengers, now viruses?? You don’t have to make your videos clickbait or relevant to popular topics and Google searches.

  16. Dardania Lion

    Viruses are there to reproduce you said? To me humans are viruses too.

  17. hoggy5724

    Solar & cosmic rays are enemies of all life but if bacteria/viruses where shield ed within an Interstellar object then perhaps they could remain dormant for a duration or perhaps indefinitely

  18. Pockets MacCartney

    It would be interesting to know if dust catching high altitude sonds have found virii in the highest altitudes.

  19. Brian Berthold

    @Astrum maybe you can fin the answer cuz i sure cant
    what is the size in microns of the Corona Virus .. the side of it determines what type of masks you have to wear to protect yourselves

  20. Tom Ulcak

    Could viruses be biological nanites? Perhaps, the purpose isn’t defined by the virus, but, for something or someone else’s purpose?

  21. Caleba Lalawmpuia

    Hahaha so funny

  22. C G

    Rule 1. Stay away from space bats.

  23. MaryLu Harmon


  24. Keith Brown

    never mind. it seemed funny, now isn’t

  25. kyjo72682

    With regard to panspermia, another important consideration is stability over time. Some microbes might be able to survive few hundred or thousand years inside a rock which could colonize a single planetary system, but interstellar distances and travel times are many orders of magnitude larger.. I don’t think even the toughest bacteria could survive an interstellar journey in viable numbers.

  26. Tim

    amazing content keep up the awesome content

  27. Particulator

    There are primitive cyanobacteria already known that can survive extreme heat, cold and radiation, possibly a planetary transfer too. They are able to do photosynthesis so can you imagine having humans dropping oxygen producing bacteria on Mars? First baby steps into terraforming our neighbor planet maybe?

  28. Oh Asis

    Life was all very simple before education came along.

  29. Tim

    cool video keep up the great content

  30. FiguraCinque

    Assuming life is ultra common in the universe (due to the fact that the basic bric component of life are common) i guess that microbes and viruses can traverse space. Life on earth could very well also be the result of panspermia, or life has started autonomously but we have been reached by basic alien life form through asteroids already.

  31. Eman Name

    Cosmic rays damage DNA.

  32. Andry Sqverill

    Imagine, a generational space ship destined for the Alpha Centauri system. Leaves earth with 80 families, and reaches Proxima Centauri b with 400 quadrillion viruses, and 0 humans.

  33. Jim C

    Panspermia….herp….yeah makes sense

  34. Andy Pandy

    it’s not PANS-PERMIA … it’s PAN-SPERMIA … think SPERM i.e. SEEDING.

  35. Keviarex

    nice vid, like always


    Agreed we’re already in a space whatever viral thingi (title..)!! I got C-19 7wks ago was already in isolation with no contacts with anyone blah blah.. & none took me seriously (doctors said my symptoms didn’t match cuz I’d more than expected..) & only today professionals are saying my symptoms are expected to be a part of.. etc.. & the worst part is I keep feeling an itch stock on very top of my left nostril out of reach (headaches etc.. Etc..) Oh n I can’t sneeze or cough it (keep having sneeze, cough & sneezes+cough fits) the bugger won’t leave.. Last but not least my body (torso) keeps having that feeling of nerves chilling my outer but without the inner heat like a severe fever (which I think is my body & it fighting again & again but my immune sys is doin it’s thing).. In Australia where we’d only a few cases then.

  37. kirby march barcena


  38. S1QuanA

    No, they can’t.


    ..oh n keep up the good work

    πŸ’“ ✌ πŸ™

  40. Abhijit Dhar

    Hi Alex stay safe be safe and keep social distancing your well wisher

  41. Geoffrey S Tuttle

    Ironic that the Rosetta lander looks like a model of a virus. While these virus images are (mostly) our artistic illustrations, and thus naturally similar to a human-designed lander with geometric, angular bodies and evenly distributed articulated tripod legs, etc., it makes one wonder if virus’ mysterious origins may indeed be the product of some extraterrestrial species’ “intelligent design”.

  42. lileeimperator

    Thank you for the video! A question came up in me. I don’t understand why they superclean all their “space gear”. What would happen if they do it without removing the bacteria, viruses, microscopic stuff ?? It’d die anyway no?

  43. eli ortega

    What about prions? You made me think.

  44. Nicholas Beckett

    Diseases from Space – Sir Fred Hoyle.

  45. OctoMoose

    All fun and games until a satellite falls down and a town goes dark. Andromeda strain was such a frightening read as a kid, left a lasting impression. space viruses, and by extension whatever strains lurk in the ice on polar regions still spook me good. Nice video!

  46. Cyber Doomgirl

    I’ve seen a documentary trying to prove if microbial life could survive asteroid impact by simulating the impact itself, with microbes inside some capsule shot like a bullet. No microbe lived to tell the story. If alien life can traverse the space (which is highly likely due our own life here) it must be with some other mechanic we still don’t know.

  47. MrPooPooJohn

    Great video. :)

  48. El Torco

    oragnic compounds

  49. Danbob

    Great vid as usual, thank πŸ‘β€οΈπŸ‘ŠπŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί

  50. Pup314

    Michael Criton thought so. Andromeda Strain.

  51. laszloilles52

    No virus can be propagated without a living cell in any part of the universe.

  52. RGM 2077

    The real answer is that no one knows and that bothers me.

  53. Humanity and Conflicts

    Space herpes. (The Ice Pirates – 1984).

  54. eSKAone

    Everything is alive. Life does not end at the other side of a cell’s membrane. A city is an organism too. There is no isolated system in the universe. It’s systems within systems, overlapping each other.

  55. Mick Obrien

    Can a robot catch a cold? Well, it depends how you define a cold, or DNA… DNA is just a series of instructions on what to do. It’s tantamount to software programming instructions that execute code. So… DNA and software are nearly the same ‘type’ of thing just going about their business in different ways. I have no point but I was just thinking that whether you have DNA or software, it’s just instructions. How many ways are there to encode/decode instructions? How many different ways could life evolve its process of reproduction? It’s so interesting when you think about these things.

  56. dr. Mustafy th

    Dear alex,how about doing an episode regarding astrobiological aspects of life other tha dna or rna based…

  57. Noel Keating Photography

    Your videos are always greatly appreciated here…. Thank you

  58. Tales Resden

    we’ll send corona to space & space will pay for it

  59. Vikram Gupte

    Did SpaceX sterilise Mr. Musk’s Tesla roadster before sending it to space?

  60. Just Some Guy without a Mustache

    They don’t last long without a host, let alone the harsh UV radiation outside of our atmosphere

  61. JAXi

    2 views xd Luv u <3

  62. The Simple Animator

    7:15 is it supposed to be spelled oragnic?

  63. Baz Snell

    Brilliant stuff!
    I am subscribed to NumberPhile, 3Blue1Brown, and most of the Science & Maths channels.
    Lots of science- and math-based videos out there now about the spread statistics, methods, mechanisms, et al.
    As usual, you have come up with a new perspective on the current crisis. Thank you for the very interesting content.

  64. Sherylin

    In a spacecraft, yes. Outside of a spacecraft, no.
    Pretty simple. :)
    The solar winds and radiation alone would be enough. Just put a petri dish on the surface of the moon to prove the point. :)

  65. Bruno V

    Amazing film as always!

  66. atheia kid

    Amazing how such small things can whoop our cocky butts. Maybe our medical understanding is still very infantile.

  67. Daniel Grover

    At 7:12 you misspelled “organic”

  68. Others

    It has been proposed the life on earth started from bacteria and viruses that landed here via rocks from space. Given the early formation of the solar system involved many such collisions of matter from within and outside our solar system with earth and given it only takes one virus to survive from such an impact and to find a suitable host, I’d be surprised if we haven’t been infected with extra terrestrial life many, many times. The conditions for viruses to survive millions of years in a fragment of rock I realise are difficult to fathom, but nature finds ways…

  69. Ray Brodie

    Until we are certain, we should try to avoid contamination of any exo Earth 🌍 object πŸ‘πŸΏπŸ––πŸΏπŸ––πŸΏπŸ‘¨πŸΏβ€βš•οΈπŸ˜Ž

  70. matyourin

    live will find a way 😁
    Pretty sure in a million years virus based hyper intelligent swarm beings that developped from our visit on Mars will come to excavate our remnants on earth… And probably they will conclude that our deity was a roll of toilet paper since every human seemed to have died basically buried in that stuff. πŸ˜‚

  71. UnexpectedExpectation

    I’m escaping to the one place that hasn’t been contaminated by coronavirus!


  72. hoggy5724

    Well I thought If bacteria or viruses where incased in a comet as part of a remnant of an other world and at some point it crashed on a planet that had the right conditions this would seem probable

  73. Nayeli Aguilar

    Little known fact: Covid-19 is a Martian that landed to overtake the planet.

  74. Argus Plexus

    Perfect for my lunch break. Thanks Alex!

  75. NathanWilson

    Thanks for putting out genuinely interesting information related to viruses! I can’t take another “wash your hands” speech!

  76. Sa bo

    But another brilliant upload, I love this channel. I will always share!

  77. Robin Hodgkinson

    Fancy doing a video on viruses in space. What ever gave you that idea… ; )

  78. Virginia Tyree

    3 31 20 Hey Astrum, Thanks for the terrific & timely post. Stay safe & be well. v

  79. link9a link9a

    Ask China about that …

  80. AbdulrahmanAl-Ghamdi

    Man I missed your videos. I watch them awake and a sleep. It’s always running none the less. Your voice is quite the gift

  81. Chimkinnuggers2888

    If we had a quantum computer i wonder how many potential viruses it can simulate. No pun intended.

  82. Larry Whittington

    At a glance there’s one that’s a tough bacteria called Radiococus Durrands it was once discovered when a can of meat was sterilized with radiation.

  83. Dark Knighte Apologeticz

    I’m extremely doubtful of panspermia.

  84. tomasdipagio

    Excellent! I’ve always suspected there were good reasons for the gulf of space. This certainly helps appreciate more. Thank you!

  85. Audiofile

    “seem to only exist for the purpose of reproduction”, uh… I guess so are humans… considering the scale of the universe. What if there are other more intelligent forms looking at the petri dish called Earth and saying the same about us? What have humans achieved? Jumping out to another petri dish called moon? We don’t even know how big the lab actually is.

    Whose turn on the joint?

  86. The Exoplanets Channel

    Instant like!
    I recommend you guys watching the movie “The last days on Mars”. It is a virus incident.

  87. Crimson King

    I guess you can never truly know either way. But I don’t think it’s too big of an issue if you follow the correct protocols. Let’s get people there! πŸ‘

  88. WarmWeatherGuy

    Life which evolved independently would be sufficiently different that we could not eat it. In sci-fi movies people eat the plants and animals on other planets but would they be digestible?

  89. Kurt Freitag

    “Oragnic” (sic)

  90. Daniel Paulson

    I’m a solid fan of the panspermia theory. One simply has to look at impact craters on solid planets to realize the exchanges over billions of years have been so prevalent. Life could have come about here as a result of sharing.
    But once upon a time, the cosmos was helium and nitrogen. Somewhere along that billions of years along that magical evolutionary path……..

  91. IzΓ© BizΓ©

    When a rock leaves Mars it has to be in space, that is an harsh enviroment and probably the rock doesn’t get the fastest and most efficent orbit to Earth. Maybe it has to spend years in space with radiation, chaotic tempetures, no liquid water, oxygen, anything. It would obviously kill viruses and I am not a scientist, but I think could kill bacteriums too. And then reentry and impact is a really hard scenario for them too. And then people didn’t find then after that moment. Weather and geological changes come, it is just too much in my opinion. So if there is anything on Mars it won’t come with accidental rocks. I think we should protect Mars hard until we have enough experience with humans on it.

  92. Hooman Mehdizadehjafari

    Imagine moving and settling on Mars after centuries, and one day finding Coronavirus or another mass-killer virus growing in us up there!

  93. Corey Lewis

    Ah, yes! A proper way to reference the current event with value-adding information. Thank you.

  94. P Prehn

    For all we know, some virus was our earliest ancestor…

  95. saigokun

    Interesting video. It reminded me of the film The Andromeda Strain.

  96. TheLastDayGamer

    Can viruses and microbas traverse space? *10 minutes later*
    We can’t prove anything either way.. πŸ‘Œ

  97. Lord Zordid

    I’m fairly convinced we will find traces of the same organic matter all over the solar system. And it will all be pretty boring and uninteresting to the commoner.

  98. videoscrapheap

    This may be a good argument for moon base. Bring samples back and study them there.

  99. John F

    The biggest catch is, “life as we know it”. Hell we have dark matter and dark energy and science doesn’t have a clue. Throw “dark life” into the mix. Can’t prove the negative. Basically we just don’t know.

  100. Science Junkie 5 by 5

    The observable Universe has everything in it to create and support all kinds of life.
    So, Yes.

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