Nalin Chandra Wickramasinghe (born 20 January 1939) is a Sri Lankan-born British mathematician, astronomer and astrobiologist. He is currently Professor and Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham, a post he has held since 2011. Chandra Wickramasinghe has written 24 books about astrophysics and related topics; he has made frequent appearances on radio, television and film, and he writes extensive online blogs and articles.
Timeline – 12 November 2014 – Today’s landing on a comet has been hailed as a one big step for civilisation. The importance of this epoch making achievement and its potential for unravelling our origins cannot be overstated. The scientific theory that comets are connected with the origins of life was first developed by the late Sir Fred Hoyle and the present writer from 1980 onwards, and evidence for this point of view has grown steadily over the years. Today it is widely accepted that at the very least the chemical building blocks of life were delivered to the Earth by comets, and this process effectively kick-started the evolution of life on our planet. At the time of the first space mission to a comet in 1986 – ESA’s Giotto Mission to Comet Halley – the prevailing point of view was that comets were lifeless inorganic snowballs. Weeks before the Giotto encounter on March 13, 1986 Fred Hoyle and I published a prediction that the surface of the comet would be “darker than coal” and this prediction was reported in the London Times of March 12 1986. On the night of March 13 it turned out that our prediction was startlingly verified when, to the dismay of everyone, the comet did indeed turn out to be so dark as to be virtually invisible to the heavily shuttered-down cameras that had expected to photograph a bright snowfield. Comet Halley was indeed blacker than the blackest coal; and the largely organic composition of comets have come to be steadily vindicated since this time. The dark surface of comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Comet C-G for short) has already been established and no doubt will be confirmed in the weeks that lie ahead.
The lander Philae that arrived safely on Comet C-G carries a mobile laboratory that will hopefully give us a better understanding of how the solar system originated nearly 4500 million years ago. But what further evidence of our cosmic ancestry will be eventually unravelled by this mission is left to be seen. It is somewhat strange that references to life in comets appear to have been somewhat muted in the publicity covering today’s event. My prediction would be that the connection between life and comets would be the most exciting outcome that will emerge in due course.
2014-10-15 : Just 4 days to go to Mars Obiter MAVEN turning from MARS to observe Comet Siding Spring. A short summary video is well worth watching http://youtu.be/AwMjoy_02Ic
It should be noted that unlike short-period Comets Halley and 67P/G-C (Rosetta target) which are short period Comets (75 years and 7 years respectively), Comet Siding Spring is a long-period comet – just as was Comet ISON last year. Although it is generally accepted that these long-period comets have very long orbit periods (>100,000 years) and come in from the Oort Cloud, our hypothesis includes the proposition that many such comets are effectively parabolic and are “sling shot in” towards our solar system from nearby stars.
The Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Panspermia Model of the Panspermia Hypothesis predicts that the short period comets and even some asteroids orbiting the sun are carriers of “solar system life” including the RNA/DNA that we find in within living cells in every nook and cranny of earth, and that we are now finding in the stratosphere; inside meteorites; and even outside the windows of the International Space Station. With the overwhelming dominance of viruses in our terrestrial biosphere, viruses are also most likely included in the cosmic cargo being transported in these objects. Within just a few years we expect to confirm that microbial life across the solar system, from deep under the ice and rock of Mars, to under the ice of Europa and Enceladus is largely the same – with viruses, bacteria and archaea largely “similar” as solar system life has been homogenized over the last 4.5 billion years (4.5 bya).
But what about life in other solar systems and across the galaxy? We have recently published a paper at http://www.hypothesisjournal.org which calculates the time to seed the galaxy from a single point source which was likely NOT Earth. Included in this “thought experiment”, is the assumption that “the seeds of life”, are carried from star to star by the long-period comets like ISON and SIDING SPRING.
Many years ago I concluded that “Life is a Cosmic Phenomenon”, so I wait with baited breath the results of MAVEN’s observations this coming Saturday. I have written that the inside of long-period comets should be ideal places to incubate evolving viruses and bacteria. Then again it could simply house dormant viruses or DNA pieces or even prions with no associated cells (ie no bacteria or archaea) to cause activation. Now we have a chance to point sophisticated instruments at both Mars and at this long-period comet approaching the red planet. It is for me a breath-taking moment.
In 2001 Sir Arthur C. Clarke predicted “2061 Halley’s Comet returns – first landing by humans, And the sensational discovery of both dormant and active life forms vindicates Wickramasinghe and Hoyle’s century-old hypothesis that life exists through space.”
Well, little did Sir Arthur or any of us, know just 13 years ago, that on October 19th, 2014 we would have a long-period comet (way more significant than Halley’s Comet), Comet Siding Spring, pass close to Mars just when NASA had positioned an amazing set of scientific instruments in orbit around Mars (The MAVEN Mission). These instruments will point to Comet Siding Spring in just a few days. The same experiments planned to run on the upper atmosphere of Mars, by serendipity of timing, can now be pointed and run on a long-period comet.
As we conjecture what complex molecules MAVEN might discover in Comet Siding Spring, we should recall the recent discovery by ALMA scientists of the molecule i-propyl cyanide which has a branched backbone of carbon atoms. “There seems to be quite a lot of it, which would indicate that this more complex organic structure is possibly very common, maybe even the norm, when it comes to simple organic molecules in space. It’s a step closer to discovering molecules that can be regarded as the building blocks or the precursors… of amino acids.”
The hope is that amino acids will eventually be detected outside our Solar System. “That’s what everyone would like to see,” said Prof Griffin. “If amino acids are widespread throughout the galaxy, life may be also”.
“So far we do not have the sensitivity to detect the signals from [amino acids]… in the interstellar medium,” explained Dr Belloche. “The interstellar chemistry seems to be able to form these amino acids but at the moment we lack the evidence.
After years of using remote spectroscopy looking into the Inter-Stellar Medium (ISM) from earth 27,000 light years distance, we now have an amazing close-up opportunity to analyze a Comet. On Saturday Maven will be just 132,000 km away from the COMET Siding Spring.
Prof. Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s Principal Investigator of CU-Boulder, CO, told Universe Today in an exclusive interview “NASA’s MAVEN Mars Orbiter is “ideally” instrumented to uniquely “map the composition of Comet Siding Spring” in great detail when it streaks past the Red Planet during an extremely close flyby on Oct. 19, 2014 – thereby providing a totally “unexpected science opportunity … and a before and after look at Mars atmosphere”
The probes state-of-the-art ultraviolet spectrograph will be the key instrument making the one-of-a-kind compositional observations of this long period “Oort cloud comet“ making its first passage through the inner solar system on its millions year orbital journey. “MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) is the ideal way to observe the comet coma and tail,” Jakosky explained. “The IUVS can do spectroscopy that will allow derivation of compositional information.” “It will do imaging of the entire coma and tail, allowing mapping of composition.”
Conservative statement we suggest.
We see this as a “historic moment” in space exploration and the “search for life”. Perhaps even an opportunity to test one of the main propositions of Panspermia. The Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model of Panspermia hypothesized that long period Comets are the source of life in the solar system.
Maven’s observations of Comet Siding Spring could/should deliver the evidence consistent with this hypothesis. These would be momentus results in “NASA’s Difficult Endeavour of Seeking the Signs of Life”.
If long-period Comets are the source of the “seeds of life”, then this weekend NASA’s Maven spectroscopy should detect not just the molecule i-propyl cyanide but amino acids and the molecules of RNA/DNA
Guanine (G) : C5H5N5O
Adenine (A) : C5H5N5
Thymine (T) : C5H6N2O2
Cytosine (C) : C4H5N3O
COMET Siding Spring, whose source is at least as far as the very edge of our solar system, could be the first confirmation that Comets do indeed carry the “seeds of life”. It might be a long time before we are as close again as this to an Exocomet with such an array of powerful scientific capability pointing at the Comet.
Our best wishes go out to the NASA teams of ALMA, HiRise and MAVEN, as you follow the new NASA directive to “follow the difficult endeavour of seeking the signs of life” in Comet Siding Spring.
At a UN-sponsored Symposium on the “Space Science and the United Nations” held in Graz Austria from 22-24 September 2014, I presented a paper entitled “The transition from Earth-centred biology to cosmic life” with co-authors Gensuke Tokoro and Milton Wainwright. The paper, now published in Journal of Cosmology (JoC, 24, 12080-12096) argues that a paradigm shift with potentially profound implications for humanity has been taking place over the past 3 decades and is on the verge of acceptance.
In an accompanying second paper (JoC, 24, 12097-12101) the same authors show that the recent discovery by radio astronomers of isopropyl cyanide in interstellar clouds adds to earlier discoveries in astronomy that have indicated the widespread occurrence of even more complex organics that can be interpreted as the break up products of living cells when they are exposed to conditions of space.
We argue in these two papers the new data is not consistent with the reigning dogma in science that life emerged from inorganic chemicals on the Earth. Life, including a capacity to evolve into the magnificent spectacle we see around us, requires a system infinitely bigger and much older than our truly insignificant planet Earth. A large fraction of the matter in the entire universe and enormous spans were needed generate the all-encompassing “blue print” of life. We argue that every living species on the Earth, including Homo sapiens. is the result of the assembly of cosmologically derived viral genes. Evidence for this point of view has grown to a stage that it can no longer be ignored by the scientific community.
Accepting our cosmic origins, and the evidence for a continuing ingress of alien viruses may be important for our very survival. We point out that new viruses capable of threatening Man’s very existence could arrive from space, and it will thus be prudent to monitor the stratosphere on a regular basis. Moreover, from an acceptance of our cosmic connection we need to understand that we must live in harmony with the Earth and its ever-changing biosphere if we are to coexist with it.
PS List of participants of the UN meeting includes the newly appointed acting NASA chief scientist Dr. Gale Allen. Hopefully Dr. Allan will now start working to change the highly negative attitude of NASA toward discoveries of extraterrestrial life and the implications for mankind and space sciences. The issue that needs to be addressed is that the existence of extraterrestrial life falsifies LCDMHC cosmology, where life anywhere is hopelessly improbable and certainly not homogenized on cosmic scales as indicated by the evidence.
Contacts: Professor N.C. Wickramasinghe, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 7778389243
Professor G. Tokoro, email@example.com
Professor M. Wainwright, M.Wainwright@sheffield.ac.uk
Professor Rudy Schild (Editor in Chief, JoC), firstname.lastname@example.org
Kirkwall Science Festival in the Orkney Islands, Scotland
I have been sounding out the opinions of diverse groups of people about the current feeling about the origins of life. I was the principal lecturer at this year’s science festival in Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, my lectures on the case for Panspermia and “life as a cosmic phenomenon” were well received. This week I gave interviews for two separate Discovery Channel programmes that would be aired next year. Again the reception of my contribution was most encouraging.
Meeting of the United Nations Outer Space Affairs Division
Next week I am giving a talk in Graz, Austria to the Meeting of the United Nations Outer Space Affairs Division on “The discovery of extraterrestrial life – its impact on humanity”.
There is a flood of new data of different kinds – Rosetta Mission, the discovery of plankton on the outside of the international space station, evidence of ancient life in a new Mars meteorite, diatoms in the Sri Lankan Meteorite – all pointing in one direction. There is, I believe, a growing perception that the Earth was seeded with life from the vast cosmos, and that is seeding still continues.
The Difficult Endeavour of Seeking the Signs of Life
Since 2013 and NASA’s announcement that they were moving from “The Search for Water” to the “Difficult Endeavour of Seeking the Signs of Life” , I am delighted to report that the pioneering work of the late Sir Fred Hoyle and myself is being more and more recognized.
It seems 2013 really was the year Panspermia entered mainstream science.
I am grateful to have lived long enough to see this happen. 🙂
Dear Vladimir : I congratulate you on the recent news on your team’s discovery of living plankton on the outside of the ISS. I would be interested in your comments on the following questions :
1. Can your team explain in more detail the hypothesis that the diatoms rose through the atmosphere to 400 km? How?
2. What are the types of Eukarya already identified ?
3. On any diatoms : how do you believe they are surviving – with the extreme cold, the absence of oxygen and the intense cosmic rays?
4. Have you done (or do you plan to do) RNA/DNA analysis on the diatoms?
5. Are these diatoms all alive, or are some also fossilized or even dessicated?
6. Did your team also do tests to search for viruses, bacteria and archea (alive, dessicated and/or fossilized)?
7. how was the contamination control experiment designed? And did you eliminate contamination this way?
8. will you be returning samples to Russia to conduct more detailed analysis including using the latest virus and bacteria identification tools?
I believe this discovery, in itself, is already a huge step forward. Just simply the detection of living diatoms outside the ISS is profound.
The fact that we can return samples to earth for in-depth analysis by the latest virus and bacteria identification systems; and that the diatoms themselves can be tested back on earth for isotopic signatures with electronic microscopes, leads me to believe that within a year this “mystery” will become much clearer.
My expectation is that at that point the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe Model of Panspermia should take yet another step forward as the mostly likely hypothesis for the paradigm that Life is a Cosmic Phenomenon (ie that life exists across the galaxy and universe).
Yours in science
Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe
Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology and Honorary Professor, University of Buckingham, UK
Visiting Professor University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Board Member, Institute for the Study of Panspermia and Astro-economics, Gifu, Japan
Uvazhayemyy Vladimir : YA pozdravlyayu vas s poslednimi novostyami po otkrytiyu vashey komandy zhivykh plankton na vneshney storone MKS . Mne bylo by interesno v kommentariyakh po sleduyushchim voprosam :
1 Mozhet vasha komanda boleye podrobno ob”yasnit’ gipotezu , chto diatomovyye vodorosli vyros v atmosfere do 400 km ?
2 Chto tipy Eukarya uzhe opredelili ?
3 Po lyubym diatomey : kak vy schitayete, oni vyzhivayut – s kholodnoy , nedostatok kisloroda i kosmicheskikh luchey ?
4 Vy sdelali ( ili vy planiruyete delat’ ) analiz RNK / DNK na diatomovykh ?
5 Yavlyayutsya li diatomovyye vse zhivy ili nekotoryye iz nikh takzhe okamenelyye ili dazhe vysu- shennym ?
6 li vashu komandu tozhe testy dlya poiska virusov, bakteriy i arkhey ( zhivoy , vysu- shennym i / ili okamenelykh ) ?
7 , kak bylo eksperiment kontrol’ zagryazneniya prednaznachen ? I ty likvidatsii zagryazneniya takim obrazom?
8 ty vernesh’sya obraztsy v Rossiyu, chtoby provesti boleye detal’nyy analiz , vklyuchaya s ispol’zovaniyem noveyshikh virusov i identifikatsii bakteriy instrumenty ?
YA schitayu, eto otkrytiye samo po sebe uzhe yavlyayetsya ogromnym shagom vpered prosto obnaruzheniya zhivykh diatomey predelami MKS . Tot fakt, chto my mozhem vernut’sya obraztsy na Zemlyu dlya uglublennogo analiza noveyshikh sistem ot virusov i bakteriy identifikatsii ; i diatomovyye vodorosli sami po sebe mogut byt’ provereny na Zemle dlya izotopnykh podpisey i s elektronnymi mikroskopami , privodit menya k mysli , chto v techeniye goda eta ” tayna ” stanet yasno .
YA ozhidayu, chto v etoy tochke Khoyl – Vikramazing Model’ panspermii dolzhny sdelat’ yeshche odin shag vpered v kachestve osnovnom veroyatnogo gipotezy paradigmy , chto zhizn’ kosmicheskoye yavleniye ( to yest’ , chto zhizn’ sushchestvuyet po vsey galaktike i Vselennoy ) .
S uvazheniyem v nauke
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe
Direktor Bukingemskogo tsentra astrobiologii i pochetnyy professor Bukingemskom universitete , Velikobritaniya
Priglashennym professorom universiteta Peradeniya , Peradeniya , Shri-Lanka
Chlen Pravleniya , Institut po izucheniyu panspermii i Astro- ekonomika , Gifu , Yaponiya
Further thoughts on the ISS discovery news. FYI – From WIKIPEDIA : Diatoms are a major group of algae, and are among the most common types of phytoplankton. Diatoms are traditionally divided into two orders:
centric diatoms (Centrales), which are radially symmetrical – this seems to be what has been identified but we are not sure
pennate diatoms (Pennales), which are bilaterally symmetrical. The former are paraphyletic to the latter.
Richard Hoover is a world expert on diatoms and is seeking further information from the Russians to determine the classification of what has been found.
Question #1 : Are diatoms Eukaryotes? Yes, they are because they have at least one nucleus. So what has been found on the ISS seems to have been identified as large size diatoms.
Question #2 : did they also test for bacteria or archea (or even viruses?) ? Don’t know.
Question #3 : could a particle the size of a diatom rise up from earth to the ISS where there is no air to even “lift” the diatom? There is no way that a particle as large as a diatom could have been carried up to the the space station . It is a defiance of physics. As Richard Hoover wrote this morning :
The famous Russian Cosmonaut Vladimir Solovyev just announced that diatoms and other marine plankton were discovered alive on the outside of the windows of the Russian Section of the International Space Station—surviving in the hard vacuum, thermal, and radiation environment of space. This is consistent with the detection of diatoms embedded in the interior of the Polonnaruwa meteorite stones described in a paper with Chandra Wickramasinghe and Jamie Wallis published last year (2013) in the SPIE Astrobiology Volume. In 1986, the late Sir Fred Hoyle and I proposed in a paper in the Journal Earth, Moon, and Planets that planktonic diatoms could be spewed into space along with water and ice ejected from Europa or from comets and transferred to The Earth.
I do not think there is any possibility they could have been carried to the Space Station by air currents as was suggested,since air currents do not work in a vacuum.
Some critics may say that the diatom found on the space station is too closely related to well-recognised species of diatoms that exist on the Earth. An origin of such an organism in a comet, they could say makes no sense from an evolutionary biology standpoint as life strives always to be ideally adapted to its particular environment.
The reason why the space incident diatom is similar to a terrestrial diatom is that they both came from space. All life comes from space in the first place, and continues to do so. Life on Earth is an expression on the Earth of a Darwinian evolutionary scheme that has taken place over a vast cosmological scale. Not so long ago it would have been thought impossible to find the same species in opposite hemispheres of the Earth. The connected biosphere of the Earth has now to be regarded as being connected to a vast cosmological biosphere within which frequent exchanges of genes and genotypes have established a unity of all life in the cosmos.
I BELIEVE THIS IS STAGGERING NEW EVIDENCE FOR ONGOING PANSPERMIA.
PS. I thought it a good time to dig out two old papers on “Diatoms in Space” which I make available FREE here to my BLOG Readers.
Hoyle, F., Wickramasinghe, N.C., and Al-Mufti, S : Organo-Siliceous Biomolecules and the Infra-Red Spectrum of the Trapezium Nebula, Astrophysics and Space Science, 86, 63-69 (1982), Kluwer Academic Publishers. Diatoms1
Hoover, R.B., Hoyle, F., Wickramasinghe, N.C., Hoover, M.J., and Al-Mufti, S.: Diatoms on Earth, Comets, Europa and in Interstellar Space, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1985. Diatoms2
The Daily Mail today reported : “….that traces of plankton and other microorganisms have been found living on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS), according to Russian space officials. They claim the plankton were not carried there at launch – but are thought to have been blown there by air currents on Earth. Incredibly, the tiny organisms were found to be able to survive in the vacuum of space despite the freezing temperatures, lack of oxygen and cosmic radiation“.
I think a quick review of this discovery is in order.
This is 8 times higher than the very TOP of the stratosphere. or 40 times higher than the top of Mount Everest. I believe there is no known process where any viruses, bacteria, archaea or even eukarya have been proven to have been raised to anything like that height – even considering volcanos.
Explosive eruption plumes such as those generated at volcanoes like Mt. St. Helens or Pinatubo can reach high into the atmosphere. The highest Mt. St. Helens plume on May 18, 1980 reached about 31 km (101,700 feet), and the highest Pinatubo plume got as far as 45 km (147,600 feet). But we know the ISS is at 400 km.
We do know that rare cloud types have occurred in the mesosphere. But that’s about the highest we are aware of. And they are very, very rare.
The fact is, no matter how we all try to play it down, this is a stunning discovery. And it is consistent with the Panspemia Hypothesis. Certainly this is evidence that will challenge mainstream science as it continues “the difficult endeavor of seeking the signs of life”.
The way these microbes have survived against extreme cold, cosmic rays, and lack of oxygen is very surprising even for myself. I must admit I am glad it is the Russian Scientists doing this analysis.
Is this the result of contamination from countless EVA’s and over 80 ISS flights each one delivering people and equipment with the people being the biggest source of viruses and bacteria given our (now much better understood) symbiotic relationship with these microbes. It is almost certain that the level of contamination man has caused in the ISS and space is much greater than science is prepared to acknowledge.
But perhaps it is too early to say this is the very first discovery of ET life. But it will be very interesting to see the RNA/DNA analysis.
I will be toasting Sir Fred Hoyle this evening. Those of us who have calculated that “Life must be a cosmic phenomenon” know this brings us ever closer to the day when science lays to bed the theory that life is unique to the Earth.
This is almost as exciting as the recent discovery of bacteria which live deep below the earth and feed directly on electrons. More on that next week.
About the double nature of the comet as recently discovered. It is anybody’s guess what the surface will reveal.
In spite of the uncertainties inherent in the present calculation, it is possible to interpret the surprisingly large outflow of water observed from the Comet 67P/C-G (Churyumov-Gerasimenko) on June 6, 2014, when the comet was between Jupiter and Mars, as being indicative of biology. Although microorganisms in comets are likely to be in a frozen dormant state at aphelion, a sporadic resumption of metabolism will occur near perihelion if subsurface melting can take place. Metabolism builds up subsurface gas pressures of thousands of atmospheres, which is enough to cause cracks in the surface crust releasing gas and dust. Such melting could occur due to increased solar radiation or, on occasion when impacts of smaller bodies transfer kinetic energy that can be converted to heat. Comet Hale-Bopp showed sporadic activity when it was outside the orbit of Jupiter. We can argue that this activity in Comet Hale-Bopp, as well as the new evidence from Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, point to the resumption of bacterial activity (8).
As we await the descent of the Philae lander onto Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko with bated breath, there would inevitably be many surprises in store. The recent discovery that the comet has a “double” structure and is probably a contact binary may be the first of many to come. It is to be hoped that more indirect evidence of biology will be forthcoming as the ROSETTA mission draws to a conclusion this year.
Dirk Schulze-Makuch : The cyanobacteria, diatoms etc you analyzed in the meteorites are ideally adapted to life on Earth, to life on a planetary surface. So, assuming you are correct and they indeed come from space, where is the source? An origin of these organisms in a comet would make no sense for me from an evolutionary biology standpoint as life thrives always to be ideally adapted to its environment.
Richard Hoover : There are skeptics who claim that even though many of the remains I have found in these meteorites are recognizable as heterocystous cyanobacteria, diatoms, acritarchs, hystrichospheres and other known extant or extinct life forms, they must be modern bio-contaminants. This argument conveniently neglects the fact that the EDAX data consistently show the remains have nitrogen levels below the instrument detection limit and hence died millions of years ago-long before these meteorites were observed to fall to Earth.
Chandra Wickramasinghe : The reason why fossil microbes and diatoms are similar to their modern terrestrial counterparts is that they all came from space in the first place, and continue to do so. Life on Earth is an expression on the Earth of a Darwinian evolutionary scheme that has taken place over a vast cosmological scale. Not so long ago it would have been thought impossible to find the same species in opposite hemispheres of the Earth. The connected biosphere of the Earth has now to be considered connected to a vast cosmological biosphere within which frequent exchanges of genes have established a unity of all life in the cosmos.
Dirk Schulze-Makuch : I find it very strange that extraterrestrial life would look so similar, or should I say identical to cyanobacteria, diatoms etc as Richard claims. This does not make any sense to me and is in my view so implausible that any contamination such as pointed by John is much more likely. I just discussed this matter with Alberto Fairen and he thinks alike but thought about another possibility: Could Richard’s bugs be terrestrial life that has been for billions of years away from Earth because it was ejected in primitive impacts?
William E. (Bill) Smith : Today the Rosetta Mission approaches COMET 67P now just 100 km away. 67P’s orbit is in the plane of the galaxy and is “part of our solar system” (ie it is a Kuiper belt “comet” ) with an orbit of just 6 years. Contrast this with COMET ISON, which unlike 67P (Rosetta), was a parabolic comet. I.E. ISON’s orbit period is unknown (> 100,000 years). It entered the plane of the galaxy at a steep inclination FYI – approximately the same as the angle of the solar system (the ecliptic) to the galaxy’s plane. It is now accepted mainstream science that the solar system is part of the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy which is colliding with the Milky Way. I believe (educated by conversations with Chandra ) that “long period” comets like ISON are the REAL source of original life in our Solar System. Ie ISON was “sling shot” in towards the SUN from an adjacent star. Short period comets which includes both Halley’s Comet with its 80 year orbit and Rosetta (67P/C-G) with its 7 year orbit, might well (and likely do) contain dormant viruses, bacteria and even diatoms (as found by Richard Hoover). These “seeds of life” were catapulted into local inner space from major collisions like the asteroid (or comet) which caused the end of the dinosaur era.
But I believe it is the long period comets like ISON which carry the real interesting and original “seeds of life” from other solar systems across what Chandra Wickramasinghe calls the “vast cosmological biosphere”.
And at this moment in time in August 2014, I wonder how rigorous was our sterilizing of the Rosetta Mission back in 2004. The Philae Lander will arrive on Comet 67P/C-G this November (2014) carrying untold numbers of dormant viruses and bacteria from earth, just waiting to be reactivated by the water that is already proven to be on the comet – proven using the remote spectroscopy by the ALMA telescope in Chile.
Chandra Wickramasinghe : Bill – although you may well be right, it is not a time for negative thoughts. NASA ask us to emphasize that the “search for life is a difficult endeavour”. To that we all agree. BUT what we are now expecting to find (on 67P, MARS, Titan and Enceladus) is that life is found “everywhere”. Do we really care “where it came from originally” or even if we inadvertently delivered it.
Time to agree that “Life is indeed a Cosmic Phenomenon”.