Scientists at a British university say they are confident they found evidence of life that originated in space.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield sent a scientific balloon into the stratosphere -- often described as the edge of space -- during a Perseid meteor shower, which collected small organisms they believe are not from Earth.
“Most people will assume that these biological particles must have just drifted up to the stratosphere from Earth, but it is generally accepted that a particle of the size found cannot be lifted from Earth to heights of, for example, 27km. The only known exception is by a violent volcanic eruption, none of which occurred within three years of the sampling trip," professor Milton Wainwright said in a statement.
One of the organisms the researchers believe to be from space. (Photo: University of Sheffield/Journal of Cosmology)
“In the absence of a mechanism by which large particles like these can be transported to the stratosphere we can only conclude that the biological entities originated from space. Our conclusion then is that life is continually arriving to Earth from space, life is not restricted to this planet and it almost certainly did not originate here.”
If this is in fact the case, Wainwright said it would "change our view of biology and evolution.”
“New textbooks will have to be written!” he added.
The researchers collected samples from the stratosphere by sending up a balloon like this. (Photo via University of Sheffield)
The balloon launched 27 kilometers (16.7 miles) had microscope studs, which only became exposed after the balloon reached a certain height. Wainwright said the researchers took precautions with the design to prevent contamination of the samples.
When the balloon returned to ground and scientists reviewed the data, they saw what the university press release described as "a diatom fragment and some unusual biological entities from the stratosphere."
The group's findings were published in the Journal of Cosmology. We should point out, the credibility of the journal has been called into question before. Time magazine in 2011 pointed out this scientist's words:
Blogger and biologist P.Z. Myers puts it a little more pithily: the journal is, he writes, "the ginned-up website of a small group of crank academics." Some of the articles that have appeared do nothing to dispel this idea include "The Origin of Eternal Life in the Multiverse" and "Sex on Mars: Pregnancy, Fetal Development, and Sex in Outer Space."
"I'm looking forward to the publication next year of the discovery of an extraterrestrial rabbit in a meteor,"
Reputable science journals peer review accepted papers. So does the Journal of Cosmology, but it allows authors to "submit the names, affiliations, and email addresses of 5 scientists qualified to review their paper."
"All papers are reviewed anonymously by referees who are experts in the field in question. If the article is accepted pending revision authors will be asked to respond to criticisms and suggestions by the referees prior to publication," the journal stated of its peer review process.
As for the life scientists claim to have found in the stratosphere, Wainwright said his team plans on carrying out the experiment again during an October meteorite shower where they expect a large amount of cosmic dust to enter the stratosphere.
“Of course it will be argued that there must be an, as yet, unknown mechanism for transferring large particles from Earth to the high stratosphere, but we stand by our conclusions," Wainwright said.
"We're very, very confident that these are biological entities originating from space," Wainwright told the U.K.'s Independent, including that they are "95 percent convinced" the organisms were alien.
All this said, a study from 2009, conducted in a similar manner, found three new species of bacteria not found on earth. In addition, nine other bacterial species and six fungal colonies were found.
"While the present study does not conclusively establish the extra-terrestrial origin of microorganisms, it does provide positive encouragement to continue the work in our quest to explore the origin of life," Indian Space Research Organization's press release stated of these earlier findings.
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