“Virus-like” Particles & Hints of life
Whilst orbiting comet 67-P, Rosetta recently discovered organic particles in the dust cloud which surrounds the comet. Intriguingly, it was said by Prof Wickramasinghe from Cardiff University that these look just like “Viral Particles”.
That’s not all. The professor went on to say:
“What we’re saying is that data coming from the comet seems to unequivocally, in my opinion, point to micro-organisms being involved in the formation of the icy structures, the preponderance of aromatic hydrocarbons, and the very dark surface.”
“These are not easily explained in terms of pre-biotic chemistry.”
“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.”
So, what could this ‘something’ be?
Well, the short answer is we don’t know yet. We can have a pretty good guess as to what type of organism could be doing this, and that organism is pictured below:
No, it is not as scary as it looks. This is a tardigrade (or water bear as it was originally called), which is a type of extremophile. An extremophile is an organism which thrives in ‘extreme’ environments; however this is is only ‘extreme’ relative to us and known life.
The tardigrade is a great example and was discovered in 1773 by a German pastor Johann August Ephraim Goeze. These things can survive absolutely ridiculous conditions, and can survive quite happily in the vacuum of space.
So it may be the tardigrade, or another type of extremophile, which are responsible for the formation of the icy structures, the preponderance of the hydrocarbons, and the darker than usual comet surface.
All of the fingers point to some type of life.
Great. What now?
Professor Wickramasinghe acknowledges the fact that if they can confirm ‘life’ on this comet, then it will be a hard shift for the masses to believe that the solar system could be teeming with life, which could potentially point to intelligent life, but let’s not go there just yet.
“Five hundred years ago it was a struggle to have people accept that the Earth was not the centre of the universe. After that revolution our thinking has remained Earth-centred in relation to life and biology.”
“It’s deeply ingrained in our scientific culture and it will take a lot of evidence to kick it over.”
What do you think? Does life exist elsewhere in our universe?
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