Category Archives: Panspermia

2014-10-15 : MARS MAVEN MISSION turns its powerful instruments towards COMET Siding Spring this weekend

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

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 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.

The catalog of discoveries of complex molecules is well maintained in Wikipedia at :

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”.

NASA Search for Life
NASA Search for 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.

This could well be the paradigm changing moment.


Fingers crossed!

Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe
Director, Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology and Honorary Professor, University of Buckingham, UK
Visiting Professor University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

Member of the Board of Trustees and Director of Research of the Institute for the Study of Panspermia and Astroeconomics, Gifu, Japan


William E. Smith, Director of CardioCommSolutions Inc. and Student of Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe

Associate of the University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

2014-8-20 : Active (Living?) Diatoms found outside ISS – STAGGERING NEW EVIDENCE FOR ONGOING PANSPERMIA

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.

 Richard Hoover

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.



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

2014-7-14 : Rosetta Mission Approaches COMET 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G

July 2014 : I am sure you already know that Rosetta will be the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet – with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G). I risk the ire of other astronomers by referring to the COMET as COMET ROSETTA only because the latest name 67P/C-G just does not capture my imagination. I think CNN and BBC need an easier name.

In July 2014, the Rosetta Mission is already approaching the Comet as it orbits the Sun. With what promises to be a stunning implementation of ESA’s daring vision, in November 2014, the mission will actually deploy a landing vehicle onto the crusted surface of the COMET.

Last year, in 2013, the whole world watched another COMET, COMET ISON. We were spell-bound as the Comet headed in towards the SUN. Through coverage by CNN and the BBC (and eventually all the world’s media) the event attracted global attention. We all recall that ISON, in the end, failed to amaze, as it was destroyed by the gravity of the Sun on Thanksgiving evening 2013.

But this time, the almost certain landing promises to deliver wonderful TV footage that the world’s media is expected to cover for many hours if not days or weeks. Rosetta will arrive at the comet in August 2014. The Philae lander itself will be finally be deployed in November 2014.

Humans have always marvelled at landings on other bodies. First there was the wonder of landing on the MOON ; then there was the thrill of MARS CURIOSITY landing on Mars. But the concept of landing on a Comet is beyond most people’s imagination. I believe it will be breathtaking television. The movie “Gravity” educated every girl and boy on the planet about the International Space Station and the challenges of orbiting the Earth

But now childrens’ minds will be expanded as they experience landing on a body which is orbiting the Sun. I promise you the build up on TV will be amazing, as first Rosetta comes very close to the comet in just a matter of weeks. We will then share the thrill of flying alongside the comet. This will continue from August until November. And then the “reality show” culminates with this most amazing landing which I predict will happen in “prime time” in the USA.

ROSETTA’s route to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenkohas (C-G) has been a long 10 year journey. I was fortunate to be one of the original principal investigators. But I admit to great disappointment when I realized that Rosetta was not going to carry “life detection and verification” equipment. If truth be told, in those days we did not really understand the extraordinary role of viruses in the evolution of life on Earth. Symbiogenesis has revolutionized our understanding of life and it makes me even more confident that the original theories of my now passed collaborator Sir Fred Hoyle, and myself, will eventually be confirmed. Just as 2013 was the year Panspermia became mainstream science, so 2014/2015 could well be the time that we finally discover undebateable evidence that “Life is a Cosmic Phenomenon”.

So now in 2014, as the Rosetta space craft approaches the Comet 67P/CG (Churyumov-Gerasimenko), our knowledge of viruses and bacteria and especially symbiotic life, has grown substantially. We also recognize that NASA has refocused from “the search for water” to “the difficult endeavor of searching for the signs of life”. The ESA/NASA Rosetta team are guaranteed to be employing all the very latest tools we have at our disposal using remote spectroscopy by the wonderful Chile-based ALMA telescope. Will we be able to detect life or even the signs of life?

I am pleased to share my predictions with you, and have written a short paper for your enjoyment and understanding.  The paper is adapted from a review invited by the open access journal The Journal of Astrobiology and Outreach (JAO).

May your life too be a Cosmic Phenomenon

Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe


PS Assisted by my colleagues Brig Klyce and Bill Smith, this BLOG and our associated newsletter is designed to be a convenient way for the avid science reader to keep up to date with the growing evidence that “Life is a Cosmic Phenomenon”. Panspermia has entered mainstream science. Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe.

2014-7-14 : This New Quarterly Email Newsletter

I am delighted to launch our new quarterly email newsletter. It is aimed at the general public with an interest in science and especially in my life-time passion – everything related to the sometimes contentious concept that LIFE IS A COSMIC PHENOMENON. 

Last year we created a base paper summarizing the Panspemia Hypothesis in 2013.

This newsletter will build upon this foundation, exploring increasing evidence for Panspermia as astrobiology starts to play a dominant role in most experiments underway and planned by NASA, the ESA, and by the Space Programs of China, India and Japan. 

Feedback is appreciated. Please feel free to contact me : 

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe
Director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, 
University of Buckingham, 
Buckingham, UK

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