NASA Scientist Claims Evidence Of Alien Life On Meteorite (Updated)

NASA Scientist Claims Evidence Of Alien Life On Meteorite (Updated)

Mar 08

A photograph taken through a scanning electron microscope of a CI1 meteorite is similar in size and overall structure to the giant bacterium Titanospirillum velox, an organism found here on planet Earth, a NASA scientist said.

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EXCLUSIVE: NASA SCIENTIST CLAIMS EVIDENCE OF ALIEN LIFE ON METEORITE
By Garrett Tenney
Fox News
March 5, 2011

Original Link

We are not alone in the universe — and alien life forms may have a lot more in common with life on Earth than we had previously thought.

That’s the stunning conclusion one NASA scientist has come to, releasing his groundbreaking revelations in a new study in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology.

Dr. Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, has traveled to remote areas in Antarctica, Siberia, and Alaska, amongst others, for over ten years now, collecting and studying meteorites. He gave FoxNews.com early access to the out-of-this-world research, published late Friday evening in the March edition of the Journal of Cosmology. In it, Hoover describes the latest findings in his study of an extremely rare class of meteorites, called CI1 carbonaceous chondrites — only nine such meteorites are known to exist on Earth.

Though it may be hard to swallow, Hoover is convinced that his findings reveal fossil evidence of bacterial life within such meteorites, the remains of living organisms from their parent bodies — comets, moons and other astral bodies. By extension, the findings suggest we are not alone in the universe, he said.

“I interpret it as indicating that life is more broadly distributed than restricted strictly to the planet earth,” Hoover told FoxNews.com. “This field of study has just barely been touched — because quite frankly, a great many scientist would say that this is impossible.”

In what he calls “a very simple process,” Dr. Hoover fractured the meteorite stones under a sterile environment before examining the freshly broken surface with the standard tools of the scientist: a scanning-electron microscope and a field emission electron-scanning microscope, which allowed him to search the stone’s surface for evidence of fossilized remains.

He found the fossilized remains of micro-organisms not so different from ordinary ones found underfoot — here on earth, that is.

“The exciting thing is that they are in many cases recognizable and can be associated very closely with the generic species here on earth,” Hoover told FoxNews.com. But not all of them.

“There are some that are just very strange and don’t look like anything that I’ve been able to identify, and I’ve shown them to many other experts that have also come up stumped.”

Other scientists tell FoxNews.com the implications of this research are shocking, describing the findings variously as profound, very important and extraordinary. But Dr. David Marais, an astrobiologist with NASA’s AMES Research Center, says he’s very cautious about jumping onto the bandwagon.

These kinds of claims have been made before, he noted — and found to be false.

“It’s an extraordinary claim, and thus I’ll need extraordinary evidence,” Marais said.

Knowing that the study will be controversial, the journal invited members of the scientific community to analyze the results and to write critical commentaries ahead of time. Though none are online yet, those comments will be posted alongside the article, said Dr. Rudy Schild, a scientist with the Harvard-Smithsonian’s Center for Astrophysics and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Cosmology.

“Given the controversial nature of his discovery, we have invited 100 experts and have issued a general invitation to over 5,000 scientists from the scientific community to review the paper and to offer their critical analysis,” Schild wrote in an editor’s note along with the article. “No other paper in the history of science has undergone such a thorough vetting, and never before in the history of science has the scientific community been given the opportunity to critically analyze an important research paper before it is published, he wrote.”

Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, said there is a lot of hesitancy to believe such proclamations. If true, the implications would be far-reaching throughout the fields of science and astronomy, the suggestions and possibilities stunning.

“Maybe life was seeded on earth — it developed on comets for example, and just landed here when these things were hitting the very early Earth,” Shostak speculated. “It would suggest, well, life didn’t really begin on the Earth, it began as the solar system was forming.”

Hesitancy to believe new claims is something common and necessary to the field of science, Hoover said.

“A lot of times it takes a long time before scientists start changing their mind as to what is valid and what is not. I’m sure there will be many many scientists that will be very skeptical and that’s OK.”

Until Hoover’s research can be independently verified, Marais said, the findings should be considered “a potential signature of life.” Scientists, he said, will now take the research to the next level of scrutiny, which includes an independent confirmation of the results by another lab, before the findings can be classified “a confirmed signature of life.”

Hoover says he isn’t worried about the process and is open to any other explanations.

“If someone can explain how it is possible to have a biological remain that has no nitrogen, or nitrogen below the detect ability limits that I have, in a time period as short as 150 years, then I would be very interested in hearing that.”

“I’ve talked with many scientists about this and no one has been able to explain,” he said.

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CLAIM OF ALIEN LIFE IN METEORITES NEEDS FURTHER REVIEW
By Nancy Atkinson
Universe Today
March 7, 2011

Original Link

A recent paper published by a NASA scientist claims the discovery evidence of fossil bacteria in a rare subclass of carbonaceous meteorite. The claims are extraordinary, and were the paper published somewhere other than the Journal of Cosmology, (and given an “exclusive preview” on Fox News) more people might be taking this seriously. But, even so, the topic went viral over the weekend.

Titled “Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites” and written by NASA scientist Dr. Richard Hoover of the Marshall Space Flight Center, the paper makes the bold claim that meteorites found in France and Tanzania in the 1800s (the Alais, Ivuna, and Orgueil CI1 meteorites) have clear evidence pointing to space-dwelling microbes, with inferences of panspermia — the theory that microbes brought to Earth in comets and meteorites could have started life on our planet. “The implications,” says an online synopsis of the paper, “are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets.”

The paper states: “Filaments found in the CI1 meteorites have also been detected that exhibit structures consistent with the specialized cells and structures used by cyanobacteria for reproduction (baeocytes, akinetes and hormogonia), nitrogen fixation (basal, intercalary or apical heterocysts) and attachment or motility (fimbriae).”

Dr. Chris McKay, a planetary scientist and astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center, pointed out to Universe Today that Hoover’s claims are “extraordinary, because of the ecological setting implied. Cyanobacteria live in liquid water and are photosynthetic.”

McKay said finding heterocysts (cells formed by some filamentous cyanobacteria) would certainly be indicative of life from an actively thriving environment. “The implication of these results is that the meteorite hosted a liquid water environment in contact with sunlight and high oxygen,” he told Universe Today in an email.

Several scientists from various fields have written commentaries on this, (see astronomer Phil Plait’s take, biologist PZ Myers (from my alma mater) and microbiologist Rosie Redfield (who refuted the “arsenic life” finding late last year), and there’s tons more about this available, and Alan Boyle at MSNBC’c Cosmic Log is keeping a running update) but everyone seems to agree that verifying that the structures — rods and spheres seen in rock — are actually fossilized bacteria is very difficult to do.

There have been previous reports of bacteria in meteorites, but most have turned out to be contamination or misunderstanding of the microscopic structures within rocks (remember the Alan Hills Meteorite claim from 1996 — which is still widely controversial.) It turns out that Dr. Hoover has reported fossil bacteria previously, but none have actually been proven. And, it also turns out that Hoover’s paper was submitted to the Astrobiology Journal in 2007, but the review was never completed.

“Richard Hoover is a careful and accomplished microscopist so there is every reason to believe that the structures he sees are present and are not due to contamination,” McKay said. “If these structures had been reported from sediments from a lake bottom there would be no question that they were classified correctly as biological remains.”

There are two possibilities, McKay said. “One, the structures are not biological but are chance shapes. In a millimeter square area of meteorite there are million possible 1 micron squares. Perhaps any diversity of shapes can be found if searching is extensive.”

Or the second possibility, McKay said is that “the environments on meteorites are, or were, radically different from what we would expect. There are suggestions for how meteorite parent bodies could have sustained interior liquid water. But not in a way that could have the liquid water exposed to sunlight. It also seems unlikely that high oxygen concentrations would be implied.”

There’s also the question of why Hoover would choose to publish in the somewhat dubious Journal of Cosmology, an open access, but supposedly peer-reviewed online journal, which has come under fire for errors found in some of their articles, and for the rather sensational claims made by some of the papers published within.

But word also was released by the Journal of Cosmology that they will cease publication in May 2011. In a press release titled, “Journal of Cosmology To Stop Publishing–Killed by Thieves and Crooks,” (posted by journalist David Dobbs), the press release said that the “JOC threatened the status quo at NASA,” and that “JOC’s success posed a direct threat to traditional subscription based science periodicals, such as “science” magazine; just as online news killed many newspapers. Not surprisingly, JOC was targeted by science magazine and others who engaged in illegal, criminal, anti-competitive acts to prevent JOC from distributing news about its online editions and books.”

UPDATE:

NASA has released a statement on Hoover’s paper, saying that “NASA cannot stand behind or support a scientific claim unless it has been peer-reviewed or thoroughly examined by other qualified experts. This paper was submitted in 2007 to the International Journal of Astrobiology. However, the peer review process was not completed for that submission. NASA also was unaware of the recent submission of the paper to the Journal of Cosmology or of the paper’s subsequent publication. Additional questions should be directed to the author of the paper.” – Dr. Paul Hertz, chief scientist of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington

But Hoover’s work is generating a huge buzz.

The journal’s editor in chief, Rudy Schild of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, said Hoover is a “highly respected scientist and astrobiologist with a prestigious record of accomplishment at NASA. Given the controversial nature of his discovery, we have invited 100 experts and have issued a general invitation to over 5,000 scientists from the scientific community to review the paper and to offer their critical analysis.”

“No other paper in the history of science has undergone such a thorough analysis, and no other scientific journal in the history of science has made such a profoundly important paper available to the scientific community, for comment, before it is published,” Schild added. Those commentaries will be published March 7 through March 10, and can be found here.

Certainly, further review of Hoover’s work needs to be conducted.

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2 comments

  1. Robert

    This seems hugely important. The fact that it isn’t that surprising doesn’t take away from its potential significance for the world.

  2. oh come on…
    I just only need 1 answer
    is the alien real? or not?

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