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


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 Université 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.

Is it possible that European Space Agency scientists are misleading the public with their claims that microbial life does not exist on Comet 67P?

A Russian study into a mysterious buildup on the surface of the International Space Station suggests that the European Space Agency is cooperating with NASA in deliberately ignoring the possibility that life can exist and even flourish in the vacuum of space.

On August 19, 2014, Tass announced that Russian scientists had found organisms similar to sea plankton flourishing in the vacuum of space after an exhaustive one year study of what was found on the International Space Station surface. Vladimir Solovyev, chief of the Russian International Space Station orbital mission, said:

Results of the scope of scientific experiments which had been conducted for a quite long time were summed up in the previous year, confirming that some organisms can live on the surface of the International Space Station (ISS) for years amid factors of a space flight, such as zero gravity, temperature conditions and hard cosmic radiation. Several surveys proved that these organisms can even develop.

He went on to say that “it was not quite clear how these microscopic particles could have appeared on the surface of the space station.”

Importantly, the Russian scientists found that the sea plankton was growing suggesting that space based sea plankton is an extremophile capable of reproducing in the vacuum of space with minimal heat.

If sea plankton can thrive on the surface of the International Space Station, then it’s more than likely that similar extremophile forms of life can thrive inside the core of a comet, and on its surface as Wickramasinghe and his colleagues claim.

The connection to water with the oxygen production observed by Rosetta Mission scientists can therefore be explained as resulting from the most hospitable environment for the growth of sea plankton on Comet 67P. Sea plankton is responsible for much of the oxygen production on Earth:

It is estimated that marine plants produce between 70 and 80 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere. Nearly all marine plants are single celled, photosynthetic algae.

Mainstream media sources are running with the European Space Agency’s claims that life does not exist on Comet 67P and therefore the oxygen being produced there is purely some kind of anomalous astrochemical process. This is leading to claims that oxygen is not a reliable biosignature as previously thought when it comes to the study of exoplanets by space telescopes.

However, the 2014 Russian study has revealed that an extremophile form of sea plankton can exist in the vacuum of space; this suggests that something similar could flourish inside Comet 67P. The discovery of molecular oxygen by the Rosetta Mission may therefore by the byproduct of a form of sea plankton growing inside Comet 67P which has extensive deposits of water inside that heats up as the comet approaches the sun.

The October 28 announcement by the European Space Agency that Comet 67P is producing molecular oxygen supports dissident astrobiologist claims that the comet is teeming with microbial life. By summarily dismissing such claims, and instead proposing a convoluted theory that the oxygen production can be dated back to an unknown process that occurred billions of years ago, is the European Space Agency deceiving the public?

© Michael E. Salla, Ph.D. Copyright Notice


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Tags: Comet 67P, European Space Agency, extraterrestrial life, extremophiles, NASA

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