The Extraordinary Tale of Red Rain, Comets and Extraterrestrials. For years, claims have circulated that red rain which fell in India in 2001, contained cells unlike any found on Earth. Now new evidence that these cells can reproduce is about to set the debate alive. Panspermia is the idea that life exists throughout the universe in comets, asteroids and interstellar dust clouds and that life of Earth was seeded from one or more of these sources.
Panspermia holds that we are all extraterrestrials. While this is certainly not a mainstream idea in science, a growing body of evidence suggests that it should be carefully studied rather than casually disregarded. For example, various bugs have been shown to survive for months or even years in the harsh conditions of space. And one of the more interesting but lesser known facts about the Mars meteorite that some scientists believe holds evidence of life on Mars, is that its interior never rose above 50 degrees centigrade, despite being blasted from the Martian surface by an meteor impact and surviving a fiery a descent through Earth’s thick atmosphere. If there is life up there, this evidence suggests that it could survive the trip to Earth. All that seems well established. Now for the really controversial stuff. In 2001, numerous people observed red rain falling over Kerala in the southern tip of India during a two month period. One of them was Godfrey Louis, a physicist at nearby Cochin University of Science and Technology. Intrigued by this phenomena, Louis collected numerous samples of red rain, determined to find out what was causing the
contamination, perhaps sand or dust from some distant desert. Under a microscope, however, he found no evidence of sand or dust. Instead, the rain water was filled with red cells that look remarkably like conventional bugs on Earth. What was strange was that Louis found no evidence of DNA in these cells which would rule out most kinds of known biological cells (red blood cells are one possibility but ought to be destroyed quickly by rain water). Louis published his results in the peer-reviewed journal Astrophysics and Space in 2006, along with the tentative suggestion that the cells could be extraterrestrial, perhaps from a comet that had disintegrated in the upper atmosphere and then seeded clouds as the cells floated down to Earth. In fact, Louis says there were reports in the region of a sonic boom-type noise at the time, which could have been caused by the disintegration of an object in the upper atmosphere. Since then, Louis has continued to study the cells with an international team including Chandra Wickramasinghe from the University of Cardiff in the UK and one of the leading proponents of the panspermia theory, which he developed in the latter half of the 20th century with the remarkable physicist Fred Hoyle. Today Louis, Wickramasinghe and others publish some extraordinary claims about these red cells. They say that the cells clearly
reproduce at a temperature of 121 degrees C. “Under these conditions daughter cells appear within the original mother cells and the number of cells in the samples increases with length of exposure to 121 degrees C,” they say. By contrast, the cells are inert at room temperature. That makes them highly unusual, to say the least. The spores of some extremophiles can survive these kinds of temperatures and then reproduce at lower temperatures but nothing behaves like this at these temperatures, as far as we know. This is an extraordinary claim that will need to be independently verified before it will be more broadly accepted. And of course, this behaviour does not suggest an extraterrestrial origin for these cells, by any means. However, Wickramasinghe and co can’t resist hinting at such an exotic explanation. They’ve examined the way these fluoresce when bombarded with light and say it is remarkably similar to various unexplained emission spectra seen in various parts of the galaxy. One such place is the Red Rectangle, a cloud of dust and gas around a young star in the Monocerous constellation.It would be fair to say that more evidence will be required before Kerala’s red rain can be satisfactorily explained. In the meantime, it looks a fascinating mystery. – Growth and replication of red rain cells at 121 oC and their red fluorescence. Abstract: We have shown that the red cells
found in the Red Rain (which fell on Kerala, India, in 2001) survive and grow after incubation for periods of up to two hours at 121 oC . Under these conditions daughter cells appear within the original mother cells and the number of cells in the samples increases with length of exposure to 121 oC. No such increase in cells occurs at room temperature, suggesting that the increase in daughter cells is brought about by exposure of the Red Rain cells to high temperatures. This is an independent confirmation of results reported earlier by two of the present authors, claiming that the cells can replicate under high pressure at temperatures up to 300 oC. The flourescence behaviour of the red cells is shown to be in remarkable correspondence with the extended red emission observed in the Red Rectangle planetary nebula and other galactic and extragalactic dust clouds, suggesting, though not proving, an extraterrestrial origin. Authors: Rajkumar Gangappa (Univ. of Glamorgan UK) Chandra Wickramasinghe (Cardiff Univ. UK), Milton Wainwright (Univ. Sheffield UK), A. Santhosh Kumar (Cochin University India), Godfrey Louis (Cochin University India). Sources: technologyreview.com & arxiv.org ~ Red rain in Kerala; From July 25 to September 23, 2001, red rain sporadically fell on the southern Indian state of Kerala. Heavy downpours occurred in which the rain was colored red, staining clothes pink. Yellow, green, and black rain was also reported.Colored rain had been reported in Kerala as early as 1896 and several times since then. It was initially thought that the rains were colored by fallout from a hypothetical meteor burst, but a study commissioned by the Government of India concluded that the rains had been colored by airborne spores from locally prolific terrestrial algae.It was not until early 2006 that the colored rains of Kerala gained widespread attention when the popular media reported that Godfrey Louis and Santhosh Kumar of the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam proposed a controversial hypothesis that the colored particles were extraterrestrial cells.Extraterrestrial hypothesis; In 2003 Godfrey Louis and Santhosh Kumar, physicists at the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, Kerala, posted an article entitled “Cometary panspermia explains the red rain of Kerala” in the on-line, non-peer reviewed arXiv web site. While the CESS report said there was no apparent relationship between the loud sound (possibly a sonic boom) and flash of light which preceded the red rain, to Louis and Kumar it was a key piece of evidence. They proposed that a meteor (from a comet containing the red particles) caused the sound and
flash and when it disintegrated over Kerala it released the red particles which slowly fell to the ground. However, they omitted an explanation on how debris from a meteor continued to fall in the same area over a period of two months while unaffected from winds.Their work indicated that the particles were of biological origin (consistent with the CESS report), however, they invoked the panspermia hypothesis to explain the presence of cells in a supposed fall of meteoric material. Additionally, using ethidium bromide they were unable to detect DNA or RNA in the particles. Two months later they posted another paper on the same web site entitled “New biology of red rain extremophiles prove cometary panspermia”in which they reported that “The microorganism isolated from the red rain of Kerala shows very extraordinary characteristics, like the ability to grow optimally at 300°C (572°F) and the capacity to metabolize a wide range of organic and inorganic materials.” These claims and data have yet to be verified and reported in any peer reviewed publication. In
2006 Louis and Kumar published a paper in Astrophysics and Space Science entitled “The red rain phenomenon of Kerala and its possible extraterrestrial origin” which reiterated their hypothesis that the red rain was biological matter from an extraterrestrial source but made no mention of their previous claims to having induced the cells to grow. One of their conclusions was that if the red rain particles are biological cells and are of cometary origin, then this phenomenon can be a case of cometary panspermia. On August 2008 Louis and Kumar again presented their case in an astrobiology conference. The abstract for paper states that “The red cells found in the red rain in Kerala, India are now considered as a possible case of extraterrestrial life form. These cells can undergo rapid replication even at an extreme high temperature of 300 deg C. They can also be cultured in diverse unconventional chemical substrates. The molecular composition of these cells is yet to be identified”. ~ GoodNews International
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