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Merc14

Possible proof of extraterestial organisms

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Researchers in the United Kingdom have found algae-like fossils in meteorite fragments that landed in Sri Lanka last year. This is the strongest evidence yet of cometary panspermia — that life on Earth began when a meteorite containing simple organisms landed here, billions of years ago — and, perhaps more importantly, that there’s life elsewhere in the universe.

In December 2012, a fireball was seen over the skies of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. Over the following few days, fragments of the fireball were collected and sent to Sri Lanka’s Medical Research Institute, where initial microscopic analysis revealed siliceous microalgae known as diatoms. As you can imagine, with this being the first ever evidence that life might’ve arrived on Earth via a meteorite, the scientific community was skeptical of the results — and so some fragments were sent to Cardiff University in Wales for further analysis. The researchers at Cardiff are now reporting that they’re sure that these fragments come from an extraterrestrial meteorite — and that there are definitely “fossilized biological structures” within them. Panspermia, it seems, is a go.

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/150417-astrobiologists-discover-fossils-in-meteorite-fragments-confirming-extraterrestrial-life

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This reminds me of the fossils that were thought to be in the meteor that was found in Antarctica that originated on the surface of Mars. It is hard to know that something of that sort is a fossil of something organic or not, especially because we don't know what we are looking for and, because, if it resembles terrestrial life, a suspicion of contamination is hard to disprove.

We have a pretty good idea where comets come from. Most if not all of them are thought to have originated in the outer fringes of the developing solar system as agglutinations of ices and dust in extremely cold environments. That does not sound hopeful as a place for the evolution of life.

Comets conceivably could come from similar regions of other solar systems if they got perturbed in their orbits by some passing star in just such a way as to knock them loose from the system they were in, but this is going to be really unusual if it happens at all. The clouds where comets are thought to form seem way "out there" from our perspective, but from the perspective of nearby stars they hug their central star fairly closely. Purturbations sending the comet in toward the central star will be the norm.

Further, here again you have objects forming in the outsides of some system, not an area where life is expected, that then has to survive literally billions of years.

The development of organic chemicals, which might later be a part of the evolution of life on the earth would be a different issue, and seems more possible.

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I've always thought that we aren't the only ones but glad to see evidence to support this.

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I didn't comment in the OP because I'd like to see a lot more "eyes" on the fragments. That said, the images are compelling and the researchers aren't amateurs.

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Posted (edited)

These astrobiologists at Cardiff University seem to have done their homework, making a good case for fossils of simple forms of extraterrestrial life found in a recently landed meteorite. I was beginning to think that this discovery was not going to prove out, when a couple of university labs in Sri Lanka said they had examined remains of the alleged meteorite and found them to merely be fulgurites. These are glassy tubes formed in sand by the heat of lightning strikes.

This was explained in the ArXiv paper, linked from within the article in the original post in this thread. It seems that many rocks were collected after the meteorite fall, and represented to be meteorites. In fact, it appears, only a few of them are true meteorites.

Various lines of evidence have been developed. The meteorite was witnessed to fall in the area concerned. It was ascertained that the fragments were hot, and caused burns when they were handled. The tiny objects that are claimed to be diatom fossils have very characteristic, complex structures, and have been readily identified as diatoms by biologists.

These objects are mineralized, and incorporated into the stone, which makes recent contamination seem very unlikely. The stones themselves have chemical signatures like chondritic meteorites, and unlike fulgurites.

It is heartening to learn that other scientific institutions are becoming involved in the study of these apparent fossils. In the paper, cooperative work with the University of Gottingen, Germany, and NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center are mentioned.

Edited by bison
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I`m a big believer in Panspermia so ys, it`s possible imo.

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These astrobiologists at Cardiff University seem to have done their homework, making a good case for fossils of simple forms of extraterrestrial life found in a recently landed meteorite. I was beginning to think that this discovery was not going to prove out, when a couple of university labs in Sri Lanka said they had examined remains of the alleged meteorite and found them to merely be fulgurites. These are glassy tubes formed in sand by the heat of lightning strikes.

This was explained in the ArXiv paper, linked from within the article in the original post in this thread. It seems that many rocks were collected after the meteorite fall, and represented to be meteorites. In fact, it appears, only a few of them are true meteorites.

Various lines of evidence have been developed. The meteorite was witnessed to fall in the area concerned. It was ascertained that the fragments were hot, and caused burns when they were handled. The tiny objects that are claimed to be diatom fossils have very characteristic, complex structures, and have been readily identified as diatoms by biologists.

These objects are mineralized, and incorporated into the stone, which makes recent contamination seem very unlikely. The stones themselves have chemical signatures like chondritic meteorites, and unlike fulgurites.

It is heartening to learn that other scientific institutions are becoming involved in the study of these apparent fossils. In the paper, cooperative work with the University of Gottingen, Germany, and NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center are mentioned.

You seem to understand this stuff far better than me so ar you optimistic? I think it is ludicrous to believe that there is no life outside earth but damn, I want definitive proof.

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Of course there is life "out there" but this isn't the proof you want.

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I think within 100 years (assuming we're not all back in the stone age) we'll find out that there are more worlds with life than without.

However, it's also my belief that...sadly.....there is only one place where intelligent life has developed.

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Of course there is life "out there" but this isn't the proof you want.

Could be though, we'll have to wait and see what other labs say.

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Posted (edited)

Very interesting article, I believe theres life out there and its probably plentyful, Interesting times ahead, Thanks for the posting:)

Edited by david_36

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How long does it take terrestrial micro-organisms to transfer to a meteorite?... I noticed that these fragments could have been on the ground for some days... Is it possible that they could have been 'contaminated'?...

Personally I firmly believe that there is life out there in the universe - even advanced life (multi-cellular organisms at least)... But like others have said... I want definitive proof...

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Posted (edited)

You seem to understand this stuff far better than me so ar you optimistic? I think it is ludicrous to believe that there is no life outside earth but damn, I want definitive proof.

I read the astrobiologist's new paper at ArXiv, that helped. It's only 7 pages long. There are many highly technical details, quite beyond this non-specialist's ken. I concentrated on the abstract at the beginning, whatever was understandable in the middle, and the discussion, at the end.

Yes, I'm optimistic, given the evidence, that they could really have discovered fossils of extraterrestrial life. Many of the objections that were raised when the story of this meteorite emerged, some while back, seem to have been effectively refuted.

I see that there is a new article in the MIT Technology Review. It has a fair minded approach to the matter, accepts the information that was offered, and states the obvious; that this work will need extensive independent confirmation, before anything can be known for certain.

I couldn't get a direct link to the MIT article to work here. There is a working link to it at the news section of: Coast to Coast am.com. link: http://www.coasttocoastam.com

Edited by bison
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How long does it take terrestrial micro-organisms to transfer to a meteorite?... I noticed that these fragments could have been on the ground for some days... Is it possible that they could have been 'contaminated'?...

Personally I firmly believe that there is life out there in the universe - even advanced life (multi-cellular organisms at least)... But like others have said... I want definitive proof...

Earthly contamination can very probably be ruled out. The objects that appear to be fossils are reported to be mineralized, and imbedded in the rock, just as real real fossils would be. They were found well inside the rock, not on the surface. In addition, the nitrogen in the objects was found to be greatly depleted, relative to living or recently alive organisms. Nitrogen is typically lost very slowly from once living things, as they become fossilized.

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I read the astrobiologist's new paper at ArXiv, that helped. It's only 7 pages long. There are many highly technical details, quite beyond this non-specialist's ken. I concentrated on the abstract at the beginning, whatever was understandable in the middle, and the discussion, at the end.

Yes, I'm optimistic, given the evidence, that they could really have discovered fossils of extraterrestrial life. Many of the objections that were raised when the story of this meteorite emerged, some while back, seem to have been effectively refuted.

I see that there is a new article in the MIT Technology Review. It has a fair minded approach to the matter, accepts the information that was offered, and states the obvious; that this work will need extensive independent confirmation, before anything can be known for certain.

I couldn't get a direct link to the MIT article to work here. There is a working link to it at the news section of: Coast to Coast am.com. link: http://www.coasttocoastam.com

Thanks for the link and I didn't se the link to the PDF in my OP article and just read both. Like you I am optimistic but tehre is still a lot to before this is accepted as extraterrestial. The MIT paper mentioned something I was thinking which was what if this is actually a piece of primordial earth knocked into orbit during a major asteroid strike.

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Thanks for the link and I didn't se the link to the PDF in my OP article and just read both. Like you I am optimistic but tehre is still a lot to before this is accepted as extraterrestial. The MIT paper mentioned something I was thinking which was what if this is actually a piece of primordial earth knocked into orbit during a major asteroid strike.

It's presumably possible that a terrestrial fragment, thrown out by an asteroid impact, could have been orbiting around the the Earth a very long time, only to find its way back to us now. This is a fairly advanced problem in orbital dynamics and probability. The last asteroid impact on Earth may have been long enough ago that all fragments of the Earth blasted into orbit had already crashed back down, long ago. Will do some looking about and see what I can find on this.

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It's presumably possible that a terrestrial fragment, thrown out by an asteroid impact, could have been orbiting around the the Earth a very long time, only to find its way back to us now. This is a fairly advanced problem in orbital dynamics and probability. The last asteroid impact on Earth may have been long enough ago that all fragments of the Earth blasted into orbit had already crashed back down, long ago. Will do some looking about and see what I can find on this.

That's exactly what I was thinking and had dismissed the possibility till I read it again in the MIT article. I agree since the last asteroid big enough to do this was 65M years ago so it would be a helluva an orbit but I guess they have to cover all the bases before declaring this as proof.

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Posted (edited)

Bother;

I was taken in by the article until I read this;

"In fact on page 8 of the journal, the authors indicate, “fossils [sic] diatoms were not present near the surface of the Earth to contaminate a new fall of meteorites.” What must have been near, however, was water, since the forms are all freshwater species…"

"the diversity present in the images represent a wide range of evolutionary history, such that the “source” of the diatoms from outer space, must have gone through the same evolutionary events as here on earth. There are no extinct taxa found, only ones we would find living today…for me it is a clear case of contamination with freshwater."

http://www.slate.com..._meteorite.html

Edited by jules99
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Bother;

I was taken in by the article until I read this;

"In fact on page 8 of the journal, the authors indicate, “fossils [sic] diatoms were not present near the surface of the Earth to contaminate a new fall of meteorites.” What must have been near, however, was water, since the forms are all freshwater species…"

"the diversity present in the images represent a wide range of evolutionary history, such that the “source” of the diatoms from outer space, must have gone through the same evolutionary events as here on earth. There are no extinct taxa found, only ones we would find living today…for me it is a clear case of contamination with freshwater."

http://www.slate.com..._meteorite.html

Well, so much for that. Thanks. I should've gone to Bad Astronomy first as Plait is great at knocking this stuff down.

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I think within 100 years (assuming we're not all back in the stone age) we'll find out that there are more worlds with life than without.

However, it's also my belief that...sadly.....there is only one place where intelligent life has developed.

I don't think it will be 100 years, probably a fraction of that time.

Also, given how freakin' huge the Universe is, the math makes the possiblity of intelligent life an incredibly big number.

But, until we find it, it's all conjecture.

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There is a large school of thought that complex life may be excruciatingly rare, so rare that it occurs only once in thousands of galaxies. In that case we will have the galaxy to ourselves. Maybe we are safer that way.

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Posted (edited)

Well, so much for that. Thanks. I should've gone to Bad Astronomy first as Plait is great at knocking this stuff down.

Phil Plait is neither a biologist, nor an expert in meteorites, as he himself admits. He has very little to add to his January blog. Many of the objections he raised then have been dealt with in the new paper by the Cardiff University exobiology team.

The biologist Plait consulted in January thought he saw similarities to Earthly diatoms, based only on published photographs. He immediately concluded that contamination from Earth was the only explanation that needed to be considered. Given the information educed in the new paper, it appears that he may have been overly hasty in this.

The biologist Plait consulted about the new paper does not appear to wholly agree with him. She remarks that the data is 'suggestive' of the claims made in the paper, but does not constitute proof. I agree; proof will require a good deal of independent confirmation by biologists and meteor experts.

Such confirmation is a commonplace with any new scientific discovery. Even if the traces of extraterrestrial life are merely suggested, in the context of scientific evidence, it certainly seems worth following up.

Edited by bison

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