Researchers from the University of Sheffield and Buckingham University claim to have found evidence for microscopic organisms living 16 miles up in the atmosphere between Chester and Wakefield.
The scientists used a specially designed balloon to gather samples in the stratosphere during the recent Perseid meteor shower.
They found the fragments of single celled algae known as a diatom.
They argue that this could be the first evidence to show how life may have arrived on Earth from space, perhaps carried here by meteorites.
It is not the first time organisms have been found in the atmosphere and indeed the skies are thought to be teeming with microscopic life.
This idea is called panspermia: “the hypothesis that life exists throughout the Universe, distributed by meteoroids, asteroids, comets and planetoids”.
Note the word “hypothesis”. These experiments and results are attempting to gather evidence for that. It’s not been all that successful so far since there are still many problems and questions with the idea. But it’s not impossible. Here is the new paper in its entirety. [PDF] Additional experiments are ongoing.
Their argument is that the captured organism is too large/heavy to have made it up that high from earth and must have come from space. This is supposedly evidence that life on earth was seeded from space.
Chandra Wickramasinghe, one of the authors, is one of the influential figures in promoting this idea for decades and some really far out ideas (that the outbreaks of illness on the earth is caused by extraterrestrial bacteria). The evidence has never really stood up to scrutiny and the idea is not widely accepted. But as more experiments continue, we should come to a clearer picture on this hypothesis.
This current research along with Wickramasinghe’s other results have been published in a less than reputable journal, the Journal of Cosmology. While that does not negate the findings, it does weaken the claim since the review for the journal appear less rigorous as quite “flaky” papers are allowed in.
This is a complicated subject and I withhold judgement on the new findings until more expert people weigh in on it. Feel free to add your comments to round out the discussion below. What should the average person think about this panspermia idea? Or is the finding of these microbes contamination or a new find of earth organism transport into the upper atmosphere? Lots of potential for questions here.
Scientists already calling it “codswallop”. Release the HOUNDS…
Tip: Lots of people. Thanks.