Roswell. Tunguska. Westall. When you think of earthbound locations intrinsically linked to unexplained extra-terrestrial activity these are the place names that spring to mind.
But now we can add another location to the list: Wakefield. Scientists believe the West Yorkshire city may have played host to the first documented alien invasion of the planet.
A specially-designed balloon sent 27km into the stratosphere to monitor the Perseid meteor shower returned with small organisms on board that researchers believe could only have originated from space.
Professor Milton Wainwright, from the University of Sheffield’s department of molecular biology and biotechnology, said the particles – a diatom fragment and some ‘unusual biological entities’ – were too large to be lifted from the Earth to such a height.
‘The only known exception is by a violent volcanic eruption, none of which occurred within three years of the sampling trip,’ he said.
‘In the absence of a mechanism by which large particles like these can be transported to the stratosphere we can only conclude that the biological entities originated from space. Our conclusion then is that life is continually arriving to Earth from space, life is not restricted to this planet and it almost certainly did not originate here.’
The particles were brought back to Earth on microscope studs that were only exposed between 22km and 27km from the surface of the planet.
Prof Wainwright insisted ‘stringent precautions’ had been taken against contamination.
Chris Rose and Alex Baker from the university’s Leonard Centre for Tribology are now planning to launch another balloon in October to coincide with the upcoming Haley’s Comet-associated meteorite shower.
‘The absolutely crucial experiment will come when we do what is called “isotope fractionation”,’ Prof Wainwright added.
‘We will take some of the samples which we have isolated from the stratosphere and introduce them into a complex machine – a button will be pressed. If the ratio of certain isotopes gives one number then our organisms are from Earth, if it gives another, then they are from space. The tension will obviously be almost impossible to live with!’
source: metro UK