DCSIMG

Balloon from Sheffield finds alien life on earth

Dr Milton Wainwright of the University of Sheffield

Dr Milton Wainwright of the University of Sheffield

  • by John Roberts, Education Correspondent
 

SCIENTISTS from Yorkshire believe they have found evidence of life arriving to Earth from space in a discovery they say could be revolutionary.

A Sheffield University professor said it could indicate that life is continually arriving from space and that some lifeforms might not have originated on this planet.

Professor Milton Wainwright has led a team which found small organisms in the stratosphere, after sending a specially designed balloon 27km above the Earth’s surface, during a meteor shower.

Academics says that particles cannot be lifted that high above the planet without a volcano and suggested they must have come from space.

Now experts are carrying out further tests which they hope will confirm that the organisms have come the stratosphere and not from the Earth.

Professor Wainwright said: “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.

“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.”

He added: “If life does continue to arrive from space then we have to completely change our view of biology and evolution. New textbooks will have to be written”

The balloon, designed by Chris Rose and Alex Baker from the University of Sheffield’s Leonardo Centre for Tribology, was launched near Chester and carried microscope studs which were only exposed to the atmosphere when the balloon reached heights of between 22 and 27km.

The balloon landed safely and intact near Wakefield. The scientists then discovered that they had captured a diatom fragment and some unusual biological entities from the stratosphere, all of which are too large to have come from Earth.

Professor Wainwright said stringent precautions had been taken against the possibility of contamination during sampling and processing, and said the group was confident that the biological organisms could only have come from the stratosphere.

The group’s findings have been published in the Journal of Cosmology and updated versions will appear in the same journal, a new version of which will be published in the near future. Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of the Buckingham, University Centre for Astrobiology, of which Professor Wainwright is an Honorary Fellow, also gave a presentation of the group’s findings at a meeting of astronomers and astrobiologists in San Diego.

Professor Wainwright’s team is hoping to extend and confirm their results by carrying out the test again in October to coincide with the upcoming Haley’s Comet-associated meteorite shower when there will be large amounts of cosmic dust. It is hoped that more new, or unusual, organisms will be found.

Professor Wainwright added: “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. The absolutely crucial experiment will come when we do what is called ‘isotope fractionation’. We will take some of the samples which we have isolated from the stratosphere and introduce them into a complex machine – a button will be pressed. If the ratio of certain isotopes gives one number then our organisms are from Earth, if it gives another, then they are from space. The tension will obviously be almost impossible to live with.”

 

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