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Philae comet could be home to alien life

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Blood Orchid
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« on: July 11, 2015, 04:46:41 am »

Philae comet could be home to alien life

Posted on Monday, 6 July, 2015


Could there be alien organisms living on the comet ? Image Credit: ESA
Astrobiologists have suggested that comet 67P may be home to live extraterrestrial micro-organisms.
The potentially groundbreaking revelation is based on an analysis of some of the comet's more unusual surface features such as its organic-rich black crust and icy crater lakes.

Dr Max Wallis of the University of Cardiff and colleague Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe presented evidence at the National Astronomy Meeting in Wales today suggesting that these features are strongly indicative of extraterrestrial micro-organisms living beneath the ice.

"Rosetta has already shown that the comet is not to be seen as a deep-frozen inactive body, but supports geological processes and could be more hospitable to micro-life than our Arctic and Antarctic regions," said Dr Wallis.

Both Philae and Rosetta have found evidence of complex organic molecules on the comet and the processes responsible for several of its geological peculiarities continue to remain a mystery.

"These are not easily explained in terms of prebiotic chemistry," said Prof Wickramasinghe. "The dark material is being constantly replenished as it is boiled off by heat from the sun."

"Something must be doing that at a fairly prolific rate."

http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2654-do-micro-organisms-explain-features-on-comets
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Blood Orchid
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« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2015, 04:48:55 am »

Do micro-organisms explain features on comets?
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 July 2015 10:52
Published on Sunday, 05 July 2015 23:01

 

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, studied in detail by the European Space Agency Rosetta and Philae spacecraft since September 2014, is a body with distinct and unexpected features. Now two astronomers have a radical explanation for its properties – micro-organisms that shape cometary activity. Dr Max Wallis of the University of Cardiff set out their ideas today (Monday 6 July) at the National Astronomy Meeting at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, Wales.

 

Comet CG details smallA close up image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken at a distance of 130 km using the OSIRIS camera on the Rosetta spacecraft. A range of features, including boulders, craters and steep cliffs are clearly visible. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA. Click for a full size imageRosetta data have revealed an irregular ‘duck shaped’ comet with about 4.3 by 4.1 km in extent. It appears to have a black crust and underlying ice and images show large, smooth ‘seas’, flat-bottomed craters and a surface peppered with mega-boulders. The crater lakes are re-frozen bodies of water overlain with organic debris. Parallel furrows relate to the flexing of the asymmetric and spinning double-lobed body, which generates fractures in the ice beneath.

 

Dr Wallis, and his colleague Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, argue that these features are all consistent with a mixture of ice and organic material that consolidate under the sun’s warming during the comet’s orbiting in space, when active micro-organisms can be supported.

 

In their model, the micro-organisms probably require liquid water bodies to colonise the comet and could inhabit cracks in its ice and ‘snow’. Organisms containing anti-freeze salts are particularly good at adapting to these conditions and some could be active at temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius.

 

Sunlit areas of P/67 Churyumov-Gerasimenko have approached this temperature last September, when at 500 million km from the Sun and weak gas emissions were evident.  As it travels to its closest point to the Sun – perihelion at 195 million km – the temperature is rising, gassing increasing and the micro-organisms should become increasingly active.

 

Dr Wallis said: “Rosetta has already shown that the comet is not to be seen as a deep-frozen inactive body, but supports geological processes and could be more hospitable to micro-life than our Arctic and Antarctic regions”.

 

Wallis and Wickramasinghe cite further evidence for life in the detection by Philae of abundant complex organic molecules on the surface of the comet and in the infrared images taken by Rosetta. Professor Wickramasinghe commented: “If the Rosetta orbiter has found evidence of life on the comet, it would be a fitting tribute to mark the centenary of the birth of Sir Fred Hoyle, one of the undisputable pioneers of astrobiology.”

 

Images and captions

 

An image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at a distance of 285 km. The images were made using the OSIRIS camera on the Rosetta spacecraft. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

 

A close up image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, taken at a distance of 130 km using the OSIRIS camera on the Rosetta spacecraft. A range of features, including boulders, craters and steep cliffs are clearly visible. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

 
Media contacts


Dr Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
rm@ras.org.uk

 

Ms Anita Heward
Royal Astronomical Society
Mob: +44 (0)7756 034 243
anitaheward@btinternet.com

 

Dr Sam Lindsay
Royal Astronomical Society
Mob: +44 (0)7957 566 861
sl@ras.org.uk

 
Science contacts

 

Dr Max Wallis
University of Cardiff
WallisMK@cardiff.ac.uk

 

Prof Chandra Wickramasinghe
Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology
University of Buckingham
ncwick@gmail.com

 
Notes for editors

The Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2015) will take place in Venue Cymru, Llandudno, Wales, from 5-9 July. NAM 2015 will be held in conjunction with the annual meetings of the UK Solar Physics (UKSP) and Magnetosphere Ionosphere Solar-Terrestrial physics (MIST) groups. The conference is principally sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Follow the conference on Twitter

 

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organises scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3800 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others. Follow the RAS on Twitter

 

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security. The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar. It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities for example in the area of astronomy, the European Southern Observatory. Follow STFC on Twitter



http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2654-do-micro-organisms-explain-features-on-comets
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Hammer of the Gods
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« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2015, 05:18:28 am »

This is an amazing hypothesis. Hopefully whoever is planning he next short period comet exploration mission will now include a science package that can test for the micro-organisms indicated.
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Whitelocust
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« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2015, 05:22:06 am »

I would add a note of caution. One of the two scientists behind this hypothesis is Chandra Wickramasinghe. He is one of the leading proponents of the panspermia hypothesis. There aren't many things he doesn't see as evidence of extraterrestrial micro-organisms.
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2015, 05:24:53 am »

Such extremophiles would have an extraordinary lifecycle. It would also explain the almost immediate appearance of life on Earth as soon the oceans formed. It's nothing but speculation, however.
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Zalmoxis
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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2015, 05:27:26 am »

Just because he is a rebel, just because his interpretation of the facts is somewhat idiosyncratic, just because the evidence doesn't usually support him and just because almost all other experts don't agree with him doesn't mean he is wrong. It makes it improbable that he is right but not impossible. If he shouts "extraterrestrial micro-organisms," frequently enough there is always the chance he will be right one day.
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The Creeper
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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2015, 05:30:48 am »

If the micros are there, would they survive an entry into an atmosphere such as ours or would they need to be part of a planet forming collision to be viable to produce life and evolve? What makes them think that the organic compounds are being replenished? Perhaps when the compounds on the surface are eroded there is more underneath? How does Dr Wallis know that there is cleaner ice underneath, and a lot more organics on top? Perhaps the organic molecules are too heavy to be blasted from the gravity of the comet.
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Kal-L
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« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2015, 05:32:56 am »

I do like the panspermia idea, it seems "simple" and elegant, however with Wickramsinghe involvement it does place a shadow over the findings i don't know about anyone else but Philae has taken on a character all of it's own and i feel extremely attached to little guy (sad i know) unfortunately when the ancient space craft melds with him and he comes back to earth we're in deep trouble. Smiley
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Astra
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« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2015, 05:37:16 am »

Just to add ... several scientists have responded to this today with strong words of caution. Going so far as to call it "baseless". http://phys.org/news/2015-07-evidence-life-comet-67p.html
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