Did Earth’s Life Hitch A Ride From The Cosmos?

A new report suggests that life forms in the universe are widespread and that microscopic life on Earth may have come from extra-solar sources, perhaps hitching a ride on space rocks like comets, moons and other astral bodies.

The controversial study was published online late Friday in The Journal of Cosmology.  Scientific comments will be published starting on Monday, Reuters is reporting.

This is not, however, the first time that Richard Hoover has presented such research. In August of 2004, he presented similar evidence in a paper titled “Evidence for Indigenous Microfossils in a Carbonaceous Meteorite” that is available on the website www.panspermia.org. The same paper, with the same title was published in October 2007 and is available at www.spie.org, Gawker is reporting

Nevertheless, astrobiologist Richard Hoover, with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, claims the microbial fossils were found during meteorite gathering expeditions to Antarctica, Siberia and Alaska. Hoover explains that his findings reveal fossil evidence of bacterial life within such meteorites, specifically, cyanobacteria — blue-green algae, also known as pond scum — on the freshly fractured inner surfaces of three meteorites.

These structures showed evidence of carbon, a marker for Earth-type life, and almost no nitrogen, Hoover said in a telephone interview on Sunday with Reuters reporter Deborah Zabarenko. Nitrogen can also be a sign of Earth-like life, but the lack of it only means that whatever nitrogen was in these structures has decomposed out into a gaseous form long ago, Hoover said.

“We have known for a long time that there were very interesting biomarkers in carbonaceous meteorites and the detection of structures that are very similar … to known terrestrial cyanobacteria is interesting in that it indicates that life is not restricted to the planet Earth,” Hoover said.

Hoover has specialized in the study of microscopic life forms that survive extreme environments such as glaciers, permafrost and geysers and he is not the first to claim discovery of microscopic life from other worlds.

NASA scientists presented research in 1996 indicating a 4-billion-year-old meteorite found in Antarctica carried evidence of fossilized microbial life from Mars. The initial discovery of the so-called Mars meteorite was greeted with acclaim and the rock unveiled at a standing room-only briefing at NASA headquarters in Washington.

Dr. Rudy Schild, a scientist with the Harvard-Smithsonian’s Center for Astrophysics and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cosmology, knowing that the research will cause waves in the microbiology community, has invited members of the scientific community to analyze the results and to write critical commentaries ahead of time. Those comments will be posted alongside the article.

Image Caption: A photograph taken through a scanning electron microscope of a CI1 meteorite.

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