Bacteria may not be from Earth


Scientists believe they have discovered living bacteria drifting in space that could not have come from the Earth. If confirmed the finding would provide the first evidence that life forms exist beyond this planet.

High-altitude balloons, laun ched from a research facility in Hyderabad, India earlier this year, were used to collect the samples from 41 kilometres above the planet. The scientists argued that this was too high for these to be terrestrial bacteria carried by winds or the atmosphere. The scientists are trying to grow the bacteria at Cardiff University's Centre for Astrobiology to examine their DNA.

The findings were presented at a meeting of the International Society for Optical Engineering in San Diego, California, yesterday. Prof Chandra Wickramasinghe from Cardiff University, who was a leading member of the scientific team, has argued for more than 20 years that comets and space dust probably brought the seeds of life to Earth.

He and the eminent astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle first put forward the so-called Panspermia Theory which suggests that life, or the building blocks of life, can be carried to planets by comets or drifting interstellar dust particles.