Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites: Implications to Life on Comets, Europa, and Enceladus
Hoover (Richard B.)
Source: Journal of Cosmology, 2011, Vol 13, JournalofCosmology.com March, 2011
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Yahoo! Article (Full Text; see Link (Defunct))

  1. A NASA scientist's claim that he found tiny fossils of alien life in the remnants of a meteorite has stirred both excitement and skepticism, and is being closely reviewed by 100 experts.
  2. Richard Hoover's paper, along with pictures of the microscopic earthworm-like creatures, were published late Friday in the peer-reviewed Journal of Cosmology, which is available free online.
  3. Hoover sliced open fragments of several types of carbonaceous chondrite meteorites, which can contain relatively high levels of water and organic materials, and looked inside with a powerful microscope.
  4. He found bacteria-like creatures that he calls "indigenous fossils," which he believes originated beyond Earth and were not introduced here after the meteorites landed.
  5. "He concludes these fossilized bacteria are not Earthly contaminants but are the fossilized remains of living organisms which lived in the parent bodies of these meteors, e.g. comets, moons, and other astral bodies," said the study.
  6. "The implications are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets."
  7. Studies that suggest alien microbes can be contained in meteorites are not new, and have drawn hefty debate over how such life could survive in space and how and where life may have originated in the universe.
  8. The journal's editor in chief, Rudy Schild of the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard-Smithsonian, said Hoover is a "highly respected scientist and astrobiologist with a prestigious record of accomplishment at NASA."
  9. "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," he said.
  10. Those commentaries will be published March 7 through March 10.
  11. A NASA-funded study in December suggested that a previously unknown form of bacterium had been found deep in a California lake that could thrive on arsenic, adding a new element to what scientists have long considered the six building blocks of life.
  12. That study drew plenty of criticism, particularly after NASA touted the announcement as evidence of extraterrestrial life. Scientists are currently attempting to replicate1 those findings.
Guardian Article (Full Text; see Link)
  1. A Nasa scientist has stirred up fresh debate over life elsewhere in the cosmos after claiming to have found tiny fossils of alien bugs inside meteorites that landed on Earth.
  2. Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at the US space agency's Marshall space flight centre in Alabama, said filaments and other structures in rare meteorites appear to be microscopic fossils of extraterrestrial beings that resemble algae known as cyanobacteria.
  3. Some of the features look similar to a giant bacterium called Titanospirillum velox, which has been collected from the Ebro delta waterway in Spain, according to a report on the findings.
  4. Laboratory tests on the rocky filaments found no evidence to suggest they were remnants of Earth-based organisms that contaminated the meteorites after they landed, Hoover said. He discovered the features after inspecting the freshly cleaved surfaces of three meteorites that are believed to be among the oldest in the solar system.
  5. Hoover, an expert on life in extreme environments, has reported similar structures in meteorites several times before. So far, none has been confirmed as the ancient remains of alien life.
  6. But writing in the Journal of Cosmology (Link), Hoover claims that the lack of nitrogen in the samples, which is essential for life on Earth, indicates they are "the remains of extraterrestrial life forms that grew on the parent bodies of the meteorites when liquid water was present, long before the meteorites entered the Earth's atmosphere."
  7. Rudy Schild, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and editor of the journal, said: "The implications are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets."
  8. In a note posted alongside the paper, Schild said he had invited 100 scientists to comment on the research. Their responses will be published on the journal's website from Monday. "In this way, the paper will have received a thorough vetting, and all points of view can be presented," Schild wrote.
  9. Proof that alien microbes hitched across the cosmos inside meteors, or by clinging to their surfaces, would bolster a theory known as panspermia, in which life is spread from planet to planet by hurtling space rocks. To many scientists, Hoover's work recalls the adage that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
  10. Hoover is not the only researcher to claim a discovery of alien life inside meteorites. In 1996, David McKay, another Nasa researcher, said he had found what appeared to be traces of Martian life inside a meteorite recovered from Allan Hills in Antarctica in 1984.
Synopsis (Full Text; see Link)
  1. Dr. Hoover has discovered evidence of microfossils similar to Cyanobacteria, in freshly fractured slices of the interior surfaces of the Alais, Ivuna, and Orgueil CI1 carbonaceous meteorites. Based on Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FESEM) and other measures, Dr. Hoover has concluded they are indigenous to these meteors and are similar to trichomic cyanobacteria and other trichomic prokaryotes such as filamentous sulfur bacteria. He concludes these fossilized bacteria are not Earthly contaminants but are the fossilized remains of living organisms which lived in the parent bodies of these meteors, e.g. comets, moons, and other astral bodies. Coupled with a wealth of date published elsewhere and in previous editions of the Journal of Cosmology, and as presented in the edited text, "The Biological Big Bang", the implications are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets.
  2. Commentaries: Members of the Scientific community were invited to analyze the results and to write critical commentaries or to speculate about the implications. These commentaries will be published on March 7 through March 10, 2011 and can be accessed at this link: Link (and see "Journal of Cosmology - Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites: Commentaries").
  3. Official Statement from Dr. Rudy Schild, Center for Astrophysics, Harvard-Smithsonian, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Cosmology: Dr. Richard 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 5000 scientists from the scientific community to review the paper and to offer their critical analysis. Our intention is to publish the commentaries, both pro and con, alongside Dr. Hoover's paper. In this way, the paper will have received a thorough vetting, and all points of view can be presented. 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. We believe the best way to advance science, is to promote debate and discussion.
  4. Abstract: Environmental (ESEM) and Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FESEM) investigations of the internal surfaces of the CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites have yielded images of large complex filaments. The filaments have been observed to be embedded in freshly fractured internal surfaces of the stones. They exhibit features (e.g., the size and size ranges of the internal cells and their location and arrangement within sheaths) that are diagnostic of known genera and species of trichomic cyanobacteria and other trichomic prokaryotes such as the filamentous sulfur bacteria. ESEM and FESEM studies of living and fossil cyanobacteria show similar features in uniseriate and multiseriate, branched or unbranched, isodiametric or tapered, polarized or unpolarized filaments with trichomes encased within thin or thick external sheaths. 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). Energy dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS) studies indicate that the meteorite filaments are typically carbon rich sheaths infilled with magnesium sulfate and other minerals characteristic of the CI1 carbonaceous meteorites. The size, structure, detailed morphological characteristics and chemical compositions of the meteorite filaments are not consistent with known species of minerals. The nitrogen content of the meteorite filaments are almost always below the detection limit of the EDS detector. EDS analysis of terrestrial minerals and biological materials (e.g., fibrous epsomite, filamentous cyanobacteria; mummy and mammoth hair/tissues, and fossils of cyanobacteria, trilobites, insects in amber) indicate that nitrogen remains detectable in biological materials for thousands of years but is undetectable in the ancient fossils. These studies have led to the conclusion that the filaments found in the CI1 carbonaceous meteorites are indigenous fossils rather than modern terrestrial biological contaminants that entered the meteorites after arrival on Earth. The δ13C and D/H content of amino acids and other organics found in these stones are shown to be consistent with the interpretation that comets represent the parent bodies of the CI1 carbonaceous meteorites. The implications of the detection of fossils of cyanobacteria in the CI1 meteorites to the possibility of life on comets, Europa and Enceladus are discussed.

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