A team of British researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Buckingham claim they have discovered a microscopic structure in the outer reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere which furnishes evidence of existence of alien or extraterrestrial (ET) life. They claim that the structure, which has a “ghostly appearance,” could be the long-awaited proof that life exists in other parts of our universe.
An image of the “ghost particle,” described as looking like a chiffon scarf and having the width of a human hair, is being published for the first time, according to Sunday Express. The particle has been dubbed “ghost particle” because of its wispy appearance which resembles a “wisp of smoke” when viewed under a microscope.
The particle was discovered by Professor Milton Wainright and his team from the University of Sheffield and the University of Buckingham Center for Astrobiology in dust and particulate matter collected from the stratosphere, the outer part of our atmosphere.
The “ghost particle” appears to be the researchers’ latest characterization of what they had earlier dubbed a “dragon particle,” when they first announced in September 2014 discovery of what they claimed was an extraterrestrial particle of biological nature in debris collected from the stratosphere.
They called the particle a “dragon particle,” due to its structure which suggested a mythical dragon creature. They published their finding in the Journal of Cosmology, in a research paper titled “Isolation of a diatom frustule fragment from the lower stratosphere (22-27km)-Evidence or a cosmic origin.”
Wainright and his colleagues believe that the “ghost particle,” made up of carbon and oxygen, is biological. The sample the team found and photographed under the microscope resembles a deflated balloon. But the team believes that it is a biological or “living balloon” which an alien microbe inflates with gas lighter than air, making it possible for the microbe to float in an alien atmosphere or sea environment. The “balloon” could also be used to transport ET microbes from space into the Earth’s atmosphere.
“… the width of a human hair and resembling a chiffon scarf with a ghostly appearance, the particle is definitely biological.
“We can speculate that in its space environment this ‘ghost particle’ is a living balloon which an alien microscopic organism might inflate with lighter than air gasses allowing it to float in the air or the seas of an unknown space environment.”
The researchers believe that the evidence of the “ghost particle” could help to piece together the longstanding question of where life on Earth came from.
Wainright and his colleagues, including Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, are pioneers of the new field of astrobiology. They are also proponents of a theory called panspermia, which posits that life on Earth came from space.
Specifically, the theory of panspermia claims that “life is widespread throughout the universe and has been transported to many worlds by objects such as comets.”
Wainright explains that the particle is like “nothing previously found on Earth,” and argues that the absence of Earthly contaminants, such as pollen and industrial pollutants, proves that the particle came from space.
“They appear on the sampling stubs in an absolutely pristine condition with no contamination like pollen, grass or pollution particles. Unless a means of lifting them from Earth exists which selectively sieves them out from other Earth-derived debris then they must be incoming from space.
“They also produce tiny dents we call impact craters when they land on the sampler so there is almost no doubt of their space origin.”
The discovery follows the recent announcement by Russian astronauts that they found traces of diatomic plankton on the surface of the International Space Station (ISS). It was assumed that the organisms were contaminants carried into space when the ISS launched from Earth.
But astrobiologists who subscribe to the theory of panspermia point to evidence from recent research that microbes can survive outside the Earth’s atmosphere to support their theory that life originated outside the Earth, and that extraterrestrial microbes are constantly being transported into the Earth’s atmosphere from outer space.
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, director of the Buckingham Center for Astrobiology, said the new discovery provides new support for the theory of cometary panspermia.
But while other scientists have not dismissed the claims of Wainright and his team outright, they are being cautious about accepting the evidence as proof of extraterrestrial origin. Chris McKay, a NASA astrobiologist, told Space.com that the extraordinary claim being pushed by the researchers requires “extraordinary proof.”
“There is probably truth to the report that they find curious stuff in the atmosphere. The jump to the conclusion that it is alien life is a big jump and would require quite extraordinary proof.”
At the time the paper was first published, Space.com noted that the significance of the find was that while microbial organisms have been found at high altitudes in the Earth’s atmosphere, it was the first time that a claim of discovery of microbes in the stratosphere was being made. But in response to skeptics who suggested that the “diatomic particles” might have been carried from the lower atmosphere up to the stratosphere, Wainright argued that the absence of Earthly contaminants proves that the “ghost particle” originated from space.
“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, 27 km. 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.”
[Images: Sheffield University, Wikimedia Commons]