Top astrobiologists say that the approaching comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko could be loaded with slumbering alien organisms capable of living on Earth, which will wake up and become active as the frosty spaceball comes nearer and nearer to the Sun.
Dr Max Wallace and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe say that data from the Rosetta probe now in orbit about the comet and the small lander Philae deployed to its surface support their theory, which they set out today at an astroboffinry conference in Wales. An accompanying announcement from the Royal Astronomical Society sets out the reasoning:
[The comet's] features are all consistent with a mixture of ice and organic material that consolidate under the sun’s warming during the comet’s orbiting in space, when active micro-organisms can be supported ... the micro-organisms probably require liquid water bodies to colonise the comet and could inhabit cracks in its ice and ‘snow’. Organisms containing anti-freeze salts are particularly good at adapting to these conditions and some could be active at temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius.
Sunlit areas of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko have approached this temperature last September ... As it travels to its closest point to the Sun – perihelion at 195 million km – the temperature is rising, gassing increasing and the micro-organisms should become increasingly active.
“Rosetta has already shown that the comet is not to be seen as a deep-frozen inactive body, but supports geological processes and could be more hospitable to micro-life than our Arctic and Antarctic regions,” said Dr Wallace. This of course raises the possibility that the soon-to-active alien slime colonies of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko might find much of our planet to be prime real estate, ripe for a campaign of interplanetary conquest.
The RAS announcement can be read here. ®