On 29 December 2012, a meteorite landed in the early evening at the Sri Lankan province of Polonnaruwa, with Hot, witnesses to the fireball reporting the strong odour of tar or asphalt.
Local police gathered samples of the meteorite and dispatched them to the Sri Lankan Medical Research Institute of the Ministry of Health in Colombo, whose officials forwarded onto a team of astrobiologists at Cardiff University in the UK due to certain uncommon features found on the rocks.
The Cardiff team conducted numerous tests, which revealed that three of the possible meteorites contain fossilised biological structures fused into the rock matrix – possibly the first evidence of extra-terrestrial life. Their research has just been published in the peer reviewed Journal of Cosmology.
Their tests rule out the possibility of terrestrial contamination by microbial contaminants after the meteorite’s arrival:
1. One stone had a density of less than 1 gram per cubic centimetre, less than all known carbonaceous meteorites. It had a partially fused crust, good evidence of atmospheric heating, a carbon content of up to 4 per cent and contained an abundance of organic compounds with a high molecular weight, which is not unknown in meteorites.
2. Electron microscope images of structures within the stones show a complex, thick-walled, carbon-rich microfossil about 100 micrometres across, which resemble a group of largely extinct marine dinoflagellate algae.
3. Another image shows well-preserved flagella that are 2 micrometres in diameter and 100 micrometres long, which is considered extremely long and thin by terrestrial standards and may indicate evidence of formation in a low-gravity, low-pressure environment.
4. The fact that organic samples are also buried within the rock matrix, together with low levels of nitrogen measured, eliminated the possibility of contamination by modern organisms which would have much higher nitrogen content.
5. The stones do not bear the usual characteristics of a lightning strike, which in any case would have destroyed any biological content.
Such fossils could finally be the smoking gun supporting the theory of cometary panspermia as the source of the first life on Earth. An alternative explanation might be that this was Earth rock (with biological material) that was ejected into space as the result of an ancient asteroid impact, that somehow found its way back.
What do you think?