The UK researchers say that tiny algae-like fossils found inmeteorite fragments that landed in Sri Lanka last year can’t haveoriginated on our planet, according to the study published in the Journal of Science. The fragmentswere found after sightings of a fireball in the Sri Lankan provinceof Polonnaruwa in December 2012, and were subsequently analyzed bylocal scientists.The initial microscopic observations revealed so-called diatomsinside the meteorite fragments, which scientists found to besimilar to an ancient and largely extinct type of marine algae.Cardiff University was asked to proof-check and analyze thefindings, which it did, concluding that the samples were“unequivocally meteorites” and that the analysis of thematerial structure showed algae-like fossils were native to it.Ruling out “recent terrestrial contamination” wascritical for the research. It has typically destroyed all theprevious hopes of proving the panspermia theory, which says life onEarth could have arrived in a meteorite.To support the first-ever evidence of the extraterrestrial lifefound in a celestial body, the researchers used sophisticatedmethods such as X-ray diffraction, triple oxygen isotope analysisand scanning electron microscopy.The results immediately received wide coverage in blogsand the mass media, and have been interpreted as a long-awaitedproof of that “we’re not alone.”“Results of X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) analysis, Triple OxygenIsotope analysis and Scanning Electron Microscopic (SEM) studiesare presented for stone fragments recovered from the North CentralProvince of Sri Lanka following a witnessed fireball event on 29December 2012. The existence of numerous nitrogen depleted highlycarbonaceous fossilized biological structures fused into the rockmatrix is inconsistent with recent terrestrial contamination.Oxygen isotope results compare well with those of CI and CI-likechondrites but are inconsistent with the fulgurite hypothesis,”Cornell University Library website quotes the study on thePolonnaruwa meteorite published in the Journal of Cosmology, Volume22, No.2. March 2013.But critics have doubted the credibility of such conclusions,saying that not all the necessary tests have been carried out, andthus there’s still possibility that the diatoms got inside the rockon Earth.Astronomer and author Phil Plait, known for his revelatoryarticles on Bad Astronomy blog, even went as far as to suggest therock in question might not be a meteorite at all, and cited expertssupporting his point.“They don’t establish the samples they examined were actuallymeteorites. They don’t establish they were from the claimed meteorevent over Sri Lanka in December 2012. And perhaps most telling,they don’t eliminate the possibility of contamination; that is,diatoms got into the samples because those rocks were sitting onthe Earth where diatoms are everywhere,” Plait summed up in hisblog post.What made critics wonder is the fact the researchers did notconsult any independent experts in meteorites or diatoms to confirmtheir suggestions and tests results.The placement of the publication has raised further suspicions,as the Journal of Cosmology is not held in high esteem inscientific circles, and has been accused of publishing“pseudoscience” articles.Others said, even though it looks like serious research, andthere’s an abundance of technical details in the study, such“extraordinary claims” still need confirmation from researchgroups around the globe before they could be takenseriously.
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