Saturday, November 7, 2015

Oxygen found by Rosetta Mission supports claims of Microbial Life on Comet

Does life exist beyond the Earth? This is a question many have asked but rarely is it taken seriously, until now. Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko maybe one piece of evidence suggesting life exists everywhere in the universe. 

Ben Davidson wrote an article discussing how rocky bodies within the solar system release oxygen as a result of interacting with the solar wind. He further claims that this could be the primary source of water within the solar system, which suggests that life could be much more abundant in universe than previously thought. 

Related Stars Are 'Water Factories' - ET Life More Likely | Recent Breakthroughs Reveal Startling Possibility: Water is Everywhere

In the following article, Dr. Salla puts forth another interpretation, that the oxygen detected could be from microbial life. If true, this would suggest that life could have been seeded on to the Earth long ago from a comet or meteor; in what has been called the theory of Panspermia. 

Related Life In Space Confirmed | Scientists Release Picture of Extraterrestrials Bombarding Earth

- Justin

Source - Exopolitics
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission has discovered lots of molecular oxygen being produced in the core of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This is compelling evidence in support of the claims made by British astrobiologists that the comet is rich with microbial life.

Normally, the discovery of oxygen being produced would generate great scientific excitement over the likelihood that life of some kind has to be responsible for this process. But the European Space Agency is having none of it and is doing its best to explain away the surprising finding of molecular oxygen by saying that it is due to some “unknown” planetary formation process dating back billions of years.

The Rosetta Mission released its findings on October 28 through its website in a release titled: “First Detection of Molecular Oxygen at a Comet.” According to the Rosetta Mission scientists:
ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has made the first in situ detection of oxygen molecules outgassing from a comet, a surprising observation that suggests they were incorporated into the comet during its formation.
The idea that the molecular oxygen has been frozen in the core of the comet since its formation is a surprising hypothesis, yet one that the Rosetta Mission scientists are seriously proposing.
“We weren’t really expecting to detect O2 at the comet – and in such high abundance – because it is so chemically reactive, so it was quite a surprise,” says Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern, and principal investigator of the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis instrument, ROSINA. 
“It’s also unanticipated because there aren’t very many examples of the detection of interstellar O2. And thus, even though it must have been incorporated into the comet during its formation, this is not so easily explained by current Solar System formation models.”
Rosetta Mission scientists went on to say that the previously unknown process was linked to water:
The amount of molecular oxygen detected showed a strong relationship to the amount of water measured at any given time, suggesting that their origin on the nucleus and release mechanism are linked. By contrast, the amount of O2 seen was poorly correlated with carbon monoxide and molecular nitrogen, even though they have a similar volatility to O2. In addition, no ozone was detected.
Back in July 2015, a group of British astrobiologists and astronomers said that the discovery of organic compounds on comet’s surface by the Philae lander was evidence of microbial life. The scientists claims were covered by the Guardian newspaper that ran a story titled: “The Philae lander could be sitting on comet full of aliens — and wouldn’t know about it.”

The Guardian cited one of the astrobiologists involved in early plans for the Rosetta mission for its startling headline:
Astronomer and astrobiologist Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, who was involved in the mission planning 15 years ago, said: “I wanted to include a very inexpensive life-detection experiment. At the time it was thought this was a bizarre proposition.

European Space Agency scientists were quick to respond and dismiss the claims of Wickramsinghe and his colleagues that the Rosetta Mission could not detect life. In a July 6 Guardian story, one of the Rosetta Mission scientists, Uwe Meierhenrich of Universit√© Nice Sophia Antipolis, France, responded to Wickramasinghe’s claims:
Life is quite picky about which chemicals it utilises; therefore, if life were present on the comet, this would recognisably boost a number of key molecules. COSAC and the PTOLEMY instrument on Philae could measure this enhancement. “We can thereby well distinguish between the biological and astrochemical formation of organics,” wrote Meierhenrich.
Meierhenrich went on to say: “No scientist active in any of the Rosetta instrument science teams assumes the presence of living micro-organisms beneath the cometary surface crust.”

Consequently, with the discovery of molecular oxygen being released by Comet 67P, Rosetta mission scientists have proclaimed that since there is no life on the comet, that molecular oxygen is therefore not a good biosignature as previously thought:
“If we look at exoplanets, our goal of course will be to detect biosignatures, to see if the planet contains life,” said Kathrin Altwegg, Rosetta scientist with the Physics Institute and Center for Space and Habitability at the University of Bern in Germany. “And as far as I know, so far the combination of methane and O2 was a hint that you have life underneath it. On the comet, we have both methane and O2, but we don’t have life. So it’s probably not a very good biosignature.”
The discovery of molecular oxygen being produced by the comet’s core is, however, powerful evidence in support of the claims by Wickramsinghe and his colleagues that microbial life exists on Comet 67P.




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