Scientists from the University of Sheffield claim they have discovered proof of extraterrestrial life. Their evidence? The team launched a balloon 16 miles into the stratosphere, and it came back carrying small biological organisms. Professor Milton Wainwright, who led the team, is "95 percent certain that these biological entities are of extraterrestrial origin."
But astronomer Phil Plait say's it's looks like the 'biological material' the scientists found probably didn't come from outer space: "There are a lot of reasons to think this claim is unfounded, but one is right in their very paper. The diatom ... appears clean, even pristine. As they themselves say: It is noticeable that the diatom fragment is remarkably clean and free of soil or other solid material ... which would be incredibly unlikely if it did come from a comet or a meteoroid, he wrote in Slate.
Plait also doubts the idea that a microorganism from Earth couldn't be held aloft by wind and turbulence for a long period of time acccording to the University of Sheffield scientists' theory.
However, the scientist who led the research, Chandra Wickramasinghe, Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, University of Buckingham, is a proponent of the theory of panspermia, which according to Plait, could affect his research. Wickramasinghe and the late English astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle co-developed a theory known as "panspermia," which suggests that life exists throughout the universe and is distributed by meteoroids and asteroids.
In a paper called "Fossil Diatoms In A New Carbonaceous Meteorite" that appeared in the controversila Journal of Cosmology, Wickramasinghe claimed to have found strong evidence that life exists throughout the universe based on his study of the reported remains of a large meteorite (see image below right) that fell near the Sri Lanka village of Polonnaruwa on Dec. 29, 2012.
"Wickramasinghe jumps on everything, with little or no evidence, and says it's from outer space, so I think there's a case to be made for a bias on his part," says Plait reported in Slate.
The scientists still have one more test to perform --"isotope fractionation"--which will determine whether the ratio of certain isotopes is consistent with that of organisms from earth. Professor Milton Wainwright is confident that they they be extraterrestrial in origin. Stay tuned!
The image at the top of the page shows organic carbon in a ordinary chondritic meteorite obtained using a scanning transmission X-ray microscope at the Advanced Light Source, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. The sample was obtained using a focused ion beam electron microscope (mill). In this image, carbon is highlighed in red, iron in blue and calcium is green.The history of the early Solar System is recorded in the molecular structure of extraterrestrial organic solids.
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Image credit: https://www.gl.ciw.edu/news/extraterrestrial_carbon, provided by George Cody, Conel Alexander, and Larry Nittler.