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Scientific Community Debunks Claims of Alien Life on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

posted: 07/06/15
by: Danny Clemens
Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

The internet exploded on Monday afternoon after two astronomers presented research claiming that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is home to "micro-organisms that shape cometary activity" -- or, in layman's terms, alien life. The pair even claimed that the comet could be "more hospitable to micro-life than our Arctic and Antarctic regions" here on Earth.

Dr. Max Wallis and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe argue that certain geological features on the comet are indicative of 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".

While news of the research has torn across social media like a tornado, the rest of the scientific community have been more reticent to embrace the seemingly groundbreaking development:

In interviews with major news outlets, several members of the scientific community echoed Scudder's sentiments:

"It's pure speculation," Rosetta project scientist Dr Matt Taylor told The Telegraph. "I think it is unlikely."

"I don't see any compelling evidence from the press release that there is evidence for anything other than abiotic chemistry," added Sarah M. Horst, an assistant professor of Earth and Planetary Science at Johns Hopkins, in an interview with the Washington Post.

According to The Guardian, the first major news outlet to cover the claims, Professor Wickramasinghe's past scientific research have proved controversial: "He has previously suggested that the SARS virus arrived to Earth from space and that airborne spores that caused rainfall in Kerala to turn a reddish hue had an extraterrestrial origin."

Eric Limer, of Popular Mechanics, also points out that much of Wickramasinghe's previous research was published in a "fringe publication" with a "questionable" peer review process.

The moral of this story: don't believe everything you read on the Internet.

Learn more about comets:

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Making a Comet
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