Astrobiologists claim meteorite carried space algae

Mar 12, 2013 by Marcia Malory weblog
This shows an image of a large (100 µm diameter) and very complex, thick-walled, carbon-rich (kerogenous) microfossil that the scientists have tentatively identified as a hystrichosphere. Credit: arxiv.org/abs/1303.1845

(Phys.org) —A fireball that appeared over the Sri Lankan province of Polonnaruwa on December 29, 2012 was a meteorite containing algae fossils, according to a paper published in the Journal of Cosmology. A team of researchers, led by Jamie Wallis of Cardiff University, believes that these fossils provide evidence of cometary panspermia, the hypothesis that life originated in outer space and comets brought it to Earth.

Scientists at the Sri Lankan Medical Research Institute in Colombo forwarded 628 stone fragments that allegedly fell from the fireball to Cardiff University, where Wallis' team indentified three as originating from a carbonaceous chondrite. The structure of one of the samples led the Cardiff researchers to conclude that the fireball was once a comet.

revealed what appeared to be fossils of algae embedded within the samples. According to Wallis and colleagues, this confirms that had an . The researchers even claim that what look like unusually long, thin are proof that the microorganisms in the meteorite evolved in a , low pressure environment.

Critics argue that there could be a simpler explanation. Modern organisms could have contaminated the samples. However, the researchers state that low levels of nitrogen in the fragments and the position of the fossils deep within the rock matrix indicate that the fossils are of ancient origin.

It is not even certain that the samples came from the fireball. The reported trajectory of the fireball and eventual landing place of the fragments came from eyewitness accounts, which can be unreliable.

According to skeptics, could have formed the stones. However, Wallis and his colleagues say there were no reports of lightning at the time, and heat generated by lightning would have destroyed the fossils.

Another possibility is that the fireball originally came from Earth. A long ago could have ejected rocks and water with biological material into space. Some of this ejected material could have reappeared in the atmosphere last December.

Incredibly, all of the fossils found in the samples were of freshwater species that live on Earth. Their origin in space would imply that they had the same evolutionary history as their terrestrial cousins—remarkable considering their vastly different environments.

The Journal of Cosmology itself has a less than perfect reputation. In 2009, it published a paper claiming meteorites contained fossil-like cyanobacteria. Critics also greeted this study with skepticism.

In addition, one of the paper's coauthors, Chandra Wickramasinghe, was the first to propose the panspermia hypothesis in 1981. Skeptics claim that he is fanatical about the concept, to the point of ignoring contradictory evidence.

Explore further: NASA issues 'remastered' view of Jupiter's moon Europa

More information: The Polonnaruwa meteorite: oxygen isotope, crystalline and biological composition, arXiv:1303.1845 [q-bio.OT] arxiv.org/abs/1303.1845

Abstract
Results of X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) analysis, Triple Oxygen Isotope analysis and Scanning Electron Microscopic (SEM) studies are presented for stone fragments recovered from the North Central Province of Sri Lanka following a witnessed fireball event on 29 December 2012. The existence of numerous nitrogen depleted highly carbonaceous fossilized biological structures fused into the rock matrix is inconsistent with recent terrestrial contamination. Oxygen isotope results compare well with those of CI and CI-like chondrites but are inconsistent with the fulgurite hypothesis.

via Arxiv Blog

Related Stories

NASA scientist finds 'alien life' fossils

Mar 06, 2011

A NASA scientist's claim that he found tiny fossils of alien life in the remnants of a meteorite has stirred both excitement and skepticism, and is being closely reviewed by 100 experts.

Wisconsin Fireball Caught On Tape

Apr 16, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A rooftop webcam at the University of Wisconsin-Madison captured the final seconds of a fireball's Wednesday, April 14 descent into the atmosphere. A fireball is a meteor, or "shooting star," ...

Recommended for you

NASA issues 'remastered' view of Jupiter's moon Europa

Nov 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo ...

European space plane set for February launch

Nov 21, 2014

Europe's first-ever "space plane" will be launched on February 11 next year, rocket firm Arianespace said Friday after a three-month delay to fine-tune the mission flight plan.

Space station rarity: Two women on long-term crew

Nov 21, 2014

For the 21st-century spacewoman, gender is a subject often best ignored. After years of training for their first space mission, the last thing Samantha Cristoforetti and Elana Serova want to dwell on is the ...

User comments : 34

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

cantdrive85
1.6 / 5 (17) Mar 12, 2013
Critics argue that there could be a simpler explanation.... Incredibly, all of the fossils found in the samples were of freshwater species that live on Earth. Their origin in space would imply that they had the same evolutionary history as their terrestrial cousins—remarkable considering their vastly different environments.

Remarkable indeed! Clearly this objects origin is the Earth, ejected in the past only to return as a meteorite.

In addition, one of the paper's coauthors, Chandra Wickramasinghe, was the first to propose the panspermia hypothesis in 1981. Skeptics claim that he is fanatical about the concept, to the point of ignoring contradictory evidence.

Nah, couldn't be. All scientists are above this sort of thing, especially the Einsteinians.
sstritt
2.1 / 5 (11) Mar 12, 2013
Should have saved this for April 1st
Modernmystic
2.3 / 5 (12) Mar 12, 2013
???

I'm not disputing the author's conclusion per se, but if I'm being honest about applying Occam's razor then it seems MUCH more likely that this piece of rock was blasted off the Earth at some point in the past infested with this algae and then just came home...
Q-Star
3.2 / 5 (18) Mar 12, 2013
Consider the source. The Journal of Cosmology is a place where even Zephyr would be welcomed to publish.

Tickle me with a rusty nail but they would probably publish papers from that "group" of poster(s)(as in one) that is from Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, the UK, Wales, etc (depending on the role and the day).
Q-Star
3.3 / 5 (19) Mar 12, 2013
Critics argue that there could be a simpler explanation.... Incredibly, all of the fossils found in the samples were of freshwater species that live on Earth. Their origin in space would imply that they had the same evolutionary history as their terrestrial cousins—remarkable considering their vastly different environments.

Remarkable indeed! Clearly this objects origin is the Earth, ejected in the past only to return as a meteorite.

In addition, one of the paper's coauthors, Chandra Wickramasinghe, was the first to propose the panspermia hypothesis in 1981. Skeptics claim that he is fanatical about the concept, to the point of ignoring contradictory evidence.

Nah, couldn't be. All scientists are above this sort of thing, especially the Einsteinians.


I would have thought ya would be defending them tooth & nail. The "Journal" of Cosmology is one of the few places that will "publish" papers about all that EU & PC gobbledegook.
Shootist
2.9 / 5 (14) Mar 12, 2013
Chandra Wickramasinghe, was the first to propose the panspermia hypothesis in 1981


This, at least, is nonsense.

Google: Sir Fred Hoyle
tadchem
3.9 / 5 (14) Mar 12, 2013
"Electron microscopy revealed WHAT APPEARED TO BE fossils of algae embedded within the samples. According to Wallis and colleagues, this confirms that life on Earth had an extraterrestrial origin."

By this kind of "logic" a cloud that looks like a strip of bacon confirms that pigs can fly.
DavidW
1.7 / 5 (12) Mar 12, 2013
"this confirms that life on Earth had an extraterrestrial origin"

No, it just means that life may form somwhere else too. Life may be abundant out there, but even so, that does not mean life must be seeded from somewhere else and cannot start on its own given the proper conditions and time.
hylozoic
3.2 / 5 (9) Mar 12, 2013
I honestly wouldn't be surprised. Panspermia makes much more sense then having negentropic processes randomly 'create' themselves here. The subject of this article doesn't appear to be a good illustration of panspermia, however. More sensationalism.
robtheviking
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 12, 2013
journal of cosmology...same place that printed the paper of the 'worm' that was found in a meteorite. Why isn't this printed in a better journal? I mean...have you seen their website?
barakn
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 12, 2013
I like how they started out with 628 purported fragments of this meteorite and only ended up with 3. Makes me wonder exactly careful they were to verify these also weren't false positives.
Zep Tepi
2.8 / 5 (9) Mar 12, 2013
Yes, but maybe where the earth got hit was where another comet, from who knows where, landed and then blew that comet back into space where it collided with another hundred objects in the Kuiper Belt before some asteroid disturbed its orbit sending it back to earth.

/Waiting for a call from Journal of Cosmology
C_elegans
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 12, 2013
Journal of Cosmology is just an outlet for these crackpots to sell their books to unwary viewers.
VendicarE
2.1 / 5 (14) Mar 12, 2013
No.

"Journal of Cosmology is just an outlet for these crackpots to sell their books to unwary viewers." - C elegans

That would be the Libertarian Party.

xel3241
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2013
I knew that Wickramasinghe would be involved in this study, before even reading it. He's the only one who makes such absurd claims. When a real research group examines a meteorite and finds evidence of panspermia, I will believe it.

Life (and thus intelligent life) exists in billions of places in our galaxy, and there are a few hundred intelligent civilizations or more. By making absurd claims like this, Wickramasinghe distracts the public from seeing that the search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence is valuable for our society and makes said public think it is a stupid, pseudoscientific endeavor.
LarryD
1 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2013
Probably had a 'spring clean' on the space station toilet...or maybe a UFO dumping waste overboard.
xel3241
2.2 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2013
Probably had a 'spring clean' on the space station toilet...or maybe a UFO dumping waste overboard.


These are (purportedly) fossils of terrestrial organisms, so the UFO would obviously be wrong. Being fossils, they could not have come recently out of the space station. All in all, the belief that they have found fossils is a false one which is based on dubious analysis. Once some real researchers who don't use the Journal of Cosmology or other fake journals to publish their results find evidence of life beyond our planet (an effective certainty) then I will believe it.

Also, I would like to congratulate the plasma-physics, tinfoil-hatted, UFO-believing pseudoscientists who one-starred my previous post for at least not bringing his full lack of knowledge to this comments section.
Sinister1811
1.9 / 5 (9) Mar 13, 2013
No, it just means that life may form somwhere else too. Life may be abundant out there, but even so, that does not mean life must be seeded from somewhere else and cannot start on its own given the proper conditions and time.


That doesn't make any sense. If life could have developed somewhere else, then it certainly could've been delivered to Earth. The species of fossilized algae were the same as those freshwater algae found on Earth. So it's likely that it was probably Earthly in origin.

It'd be interesting to find out more about the rock's chemical composition, to determine where it came from. There's no doubt that it arrived from space. But whether it was originally from Earth, I guess we'll probably never know.
InterPur
5 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2013
If you want a proper take on this "study", check out Phil Plait's blog on Slate. Bottom line, nonsense.
Husky
3 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2013
bullcrock, if panspermia exists it will be despite, not Because of the Journal of Banterology
hagger
2 / 5 (5) Mar 13, 2013
so..a more unlikely event took place that a piece of rock got blasted off..infected and returned home..that is a very clever homing rock indeed..and sighting Occams razor to add weight to this theory contradicts the theory of good old Occam..the simple is usually the answer..why is it so incredible to think it could be extra terrestrial..why do we think we are unique and the only living thing out here..life will and does find a way what ever the conditions and the life will reflect the conditions..why is it assumed because the algae is here earth it had to originate from earth..the odds for the ejected rock to be infected then get back to it's original planet are by massive factors greater than the rock just simply arriving here from out there as they do thousands of times a day..we still think we are the center of it all..and consider our selves to be extra special..gods bloody chosen few..the absence of other life is not evidence of absence..some one smarter than me said that..
pphelps07
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 13, 2013
This is akin to archaelogists who claim that almost every find has to do with some pagan religious ceremony. Honestly, I get so tired of their incessant need to believe all ancient civilizations were obsessed with religion. As well, it gets to be old hat when scientists want to force all discoveries into validating the extraterrestrial origins of life here on earth.

If, as so many believe, the universe originated from the big bang, it is only logical to assume that everything that exists must share common fundamental characteristics. I can't understand why it must be so difficult to believe life does exist elsewhere in the universe. It is only our arrogance that prevents us from grasping that life can, and DOES exist in conditions that do not fall neatly into the framework of earthly description.
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (10) Mar 13, 2013
I can't understand why it must be so difficult to believe life does exist elsewhere in the universe.


I certainly can...we have no evidence for it. I try not to believe things exist without evidence...

Now if someone were to parse it thus "I can't understand why it's difficult for people to think it's plausible for life to exist elsewhere in the universe" then I'd agree (with qualifiers about how complex that life might be).
Q-Star
2.8 / 5 (11) Mar 13, 2013
I can't understand why it must be so difficult to believe life does exist elsewhere in the universe.


I certainly can...we have no evidence for it. I try not to believe things exist without evidence...

Now if someone were to parse it thus "I can't understand why it's difficult for people to think it's plausible for life to exist elsewhere in the universe" then I'd agree (with qualifiers about how complex that life might be).


It's a very good distinction ya make. Believing that something exists without any evidence,,,,, and believing something is plausible or even probable.

I'm in the later camp, show me the evidence, but I also have a toe in the former camp, it is worth investigation.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (6) Mar 13, 2013
No. Just no.

They haven't even asserted that the mineralogy is an asteroid.

And whatever stone you will find in a rice field like this one will have unicellular organisms in its cracks.

Specifically here:

- Wickramasinghe is a repeat offender of not establishing evidence.

- JOC is a another such repeat offender.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (6) Mar 13, 2013
@hylozoic:

"Panspermia makes much more sense then having negentropic processes randomly 'create' themselves here."

What a daft analysis, transpermia origin just moves the place, and assumes the same processes. Less likely, because of transport, time to life et cetera.

Thermodynamics have no "negentropy". It is a non-standard idea how to account for ordinary TD in a different way. It wasn't useful.

In fact, *thermodynamics seems to be the answer*. The only known pre-protein compound that fulfill the thermodynamic bound for replicators is RNA. And they have found that with its properties, RNA replicators have to crystallize akin to other crystals out of a pool of activated nucleotides, which you would see around alkaline hydrothermal vents.
Moebius
1.2 / 5 (10) Mar 16, 2013
DNA did not suddenly appear fully developed at the same time as life. I think that the primitive form of life that DNA based life evolved from should still be around in some form if life originated here on earth. It doesn't seem to be which makes panspermia more plausible. Maybe we are actually all Martians.
praos
1 / 5 (8) Mar 16, 2013
(c) on the pic looks to me as a used condom of a veery little LGM.
GaryB
1 / 5 (2) Mar 16, 2013
There are some journals that shouldn't be reported on here to save us all some time.
spaceagesoup
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 16, 2013
I"M just about fed up reading the immature and irrelevant ad hominem attacks on individuals both off-site and in the comment roll here.

Attack the principle, tear apart what's been said, go for the jugular on observations, contradictions etc....

BUT leave the player out of it. PLEASE

When you bitchily take it out on the man/woman instead, you're suppressing the will to science. Even the top boffins are (and will eventually be, in most cases) proved wrong before new truths.

Let's shoot for a culture of acceptance, raising up our peers, and collaboration. Please peeps. There's no point otherwise. Also, you make yourself look like a kh-unt.
Pkunk_
1.3 / 5 (8) Mar 17, 2013
A fireball that appeared over the Sri Lankan province of Polonnaruwa on December 29, 2012 was a meteorite containing algae fossils.

I'm quite sure that Chandra Wickramasinghe was just "walking by" when the meteorite happened to fall right next to his feet.
The idea he presents is plausible, but the ends do not justify his means. Which includes shoddy evidence, grand "theories" which lack any evidence and general lack of trust.
I guess the only way to prove this for sure is to actually capture one of these comets in space and dissect them open to confirm if an iota of what they claim is true.
zz6549
1 / 5 (2) Mar 17, 2013
I would have hoped PhysOrg had more respectability than to post this article.
julianpenrod
1.4 / 5 (9) Mar 17, 2013
As for the "legitimacy" of "scientific" assessment of claims, I mentioned on the "Bad Astronomy" blog that I discovered that the scattershot plot of the decimal part of p(i)/pi, where p(i) is the ith prime and pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, produced an empty region about .2 wide where no values fell. A "science" devotee, DanM, pointed to a paper where infinite sums to multiples of 1/pi, taken over finite ranges, were found to fall a predicted distance from the cube of primes and said that "convinced" them that my idea was found before. And no other "science" devotee contradicted DanM. That's "science", denying what their pettiness keeps them from admitting, spouting words and accreditations, using them illegitimately to denounce what they are too petty to admit, and hoping the majority of the audience don't know what they're talking about to realize they're lying.
Osiris1
1 / 5 (5) Mar 18, 2013
Earth chauvinist protestant religious based pathoskeptics will say anything no matter how wild or desperate to try to lie away the plain fact that life is out there, and will not be wished away. Our astronauts who go on other planets in this system would well be careful of possible infection from these places. Listening to pathoskeptic liars harms no one while comfy on Earth. On Mars, it could prove foolish....deadly foolish. Those microorganisms will have stood up for eons to a tough neighborhood. We will be like chateaubriand and caviar to them.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.