The scientists, sent a balloon 27km into the stratosphere, which came back carrying small biological organisms which they believe can only have originated from space.
Professor Milton Wainwright told The Independent that he was “95 per cent convinced” that the organisms did not originate from earth.
“By all known information that science has, we know that they must be coming in from space,” he said. “There is no known mechanism by which these life forms can achieve that height. As far as we can tell from known physics, they must be incoming.”
Some of the samples were captured covered with cosmic dust, adding further credence to the idea that they have originated from space.
“The organisms are not usual,” said Professor Wainwright, who works at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. “If they came from earth, we would expect to see stuff that we find on earth commonly, like pollen.”
“We’re very, very confident that these are biological entities originating from space,” he said, acknowledging that absolutely certainty is hard to achieve in science.
The team believes that the entities are coming from comets, which are big balls of ice shooting through space. The samples were collected during a meteorite shower from a comet. As they hit the earth’s atmosphere, the comets melt – ablate, to give it a technical term – releasing the organisms as they break down.
“The particles are very clean,” added Professor Wainwright. “[Cosmic] dust isn’t stuck to them, so we think they came from an aquatic environment, and the most obvious aquatic environment in space is a comet."
The organisms probably contain DNA, supporting the notion that life on earth may itself have extraterrestrial origins.
“If we’re right, it means that there’s life in space, and it’s coming to earth. It means that life on earth probably originated in space,” said Professor Wainwright.
Responding to suggestions the life forms could have arrived in the upper atmosphere after being blasted into the upper atmosphere by a volcano, Professor Wainwright said: “The last volcano was three years ago, and the matter has all been deposited by now."
The group's findings have been published in the Journal of Cosmology and updated versions will appear in the same journal.
… The team is hoping to extend and confirm their results by carrying out the test again next month to coincide with the Haley's Comet-associated meteorite shower, when there will be large amounts of cosmic dust.
It is hoped that more new, or unusual, organisms will be found.
Prof Wainwright said the next step would be to carry out isotope fractionation.
He added: "If the ratio of certain isotopes gives one number then our organisms are from Earth, if it gives another, then they are from space.
"The tension will obviously be almost impossible to live with."
A microscopic diatom fragment that scientists believe came from space (Picture: University of Sheffield/Journal of Cosmology)
Roswell. Tunguska. Westall. When you think of earthbound locations intrinsically linked to unexplained extra-terrestrial activity these are the place names that spring to mind.
But now we can add another location to the list: Wakefield. Scientists believe the West Yorkshire city may have played host to the first documented alien invasion of the planet.
A specially-designed balloon sent 27km into the stratosphere to monitor the Perseid meteor shower returned with small organisms on board that researchers believe could only have originated from space.
Professor Milton Wainwright, from the University of Sheffield's department of molecular biology and biotechnology, said the particles — a diatom fragment and some 'unusual biological entities' — were too large to be lifted from the Earth to such a height.
'The only known exception is by a violent volcanic eruption, none of which occurred within three years of the sampling trip,' he said.
'In the absence of a mechanism by which large particles like these can be transported to the stratosphere we can only conclude that the biological entities originated from space. Our conclusion then is that life is continually arriving to Earth from space, life is not restricted to this planet and it almost certainly did not originate here.'
What about contamination from something that was previously sent up? I’d love it if these were aliens, but we have to rule out remnants from space junk. There was this, for example:
The governments of Britain, Japan and Australia are voicing concern over China’s apparent test of an anti-satellite missile. The United States says China shot down one of its own aging weather satellites last week, in a kind of target practice in low Earth orbit. Not much information about the event has been released. But scientists say hitting a satellite from the ground takes fairly sophisticated technology. The satellite was 500 miles above the Earth’s surface. The explosion created a cloud of debris in space, adding to the amount of “space junk” circling the Earth. Hans Kristensen, a weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, says that while it has been assumed that China was working to develop such capabilities, the satellite strike still surprised him.
“I was surprised that they were able to do it,” Kristensen says. U.S. officials say the Chinese hit the satellite with the help of a medium-range ballistic missile — most likely the DF-21. A satellite is a fairly small thing to hit with a missile. Kristensen says the DF-21 can probably hit a spot on the ground with an accuracy of several hundred feet. But the satellite was probably close to the size of a refrigerator. …
Soil or sea water samples or other contamination from the exploded satellite? The possible aliens were found at 16 miles (27km) above the earth and the satellite was exploded 500 miles above the earth. Would any super light organic debris that headed to earth from that January 19, 2007 explosion still be floating around over six years later?