For centuries, humanity has wondered about life outside of our own planet, and two top astronomers believe that the comet the Philae lander has been exploring could very well provide evidence of microbial life in space.
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has several characteristics indicating that it contains life, such as its black crust rich in organic material that is presently best explained by the presence of living organisms below its icy surface, as reported by The Guardian.
Max Willis from the University of Cardiff and his colleague Chandra Wickramasinghe, an astronomer and astrobiologist, believe that 67P could be home to microbes similar to what we call extremophiles here on Earth which get their name from the extreme, inhospitable environs they call home.
The Rosetta craft, launched by the European Space Agency, which orbits the comet has also picked up clusters of organic material that resemble viral particles.
Not only do the two scientists believe the comet could prove the existence of life outside of the Earth, but it could also demonstrate that life on Earth was seeded by comets in a process called panspermia. If they are able to show that, it would make sense that any planet like the Earth could very well harbor life that’s at least a little bit like us.
Currently, scientists estimate that there are 40 billion Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way galaxy. Now that’s a whole mess of Earths.
This could also be explained away as something else. Wickramasinghe, when asked, was quick to defend her work.
“These are not easily explained in terms of prebiotic chemistry,” Wickramsinghe told the Associated Press. “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.”
“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 added.
In either case, Wallis and Wickramasinghe have implored people to be more open minded to the prospect of life on 67P and elsewhere in the universe.
What do you think? Will they announce the discovery of alien life soon?
Image credit: Wikipedia Commons
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