Life, Arriving Via Meteor And Comet

Scientists are debating a provocative new study that suggests that life is found elsewhere in the universe, and may have arrived on Earth by way or meteors and comets.

In an article published in the Journal of Cosmology, NASA astrobiologist Richard B. Hoover reports on his studies of a rare type of meteor.  He concludes that the meteors include fossils of bacterial life.  Some of the micro-organisms are recognizable and closely associated with life found here on Earth, like the gian bacterium pictured above.  Other apparent fossils are of unknown life forms.  Hoover is convinced of his findings.  Other scientists, however, are skeptical — skepticism, after all, is one of the fundamental tenets of good science — and want more proof.

If Hoover’s conclusions are correct, then the implications are Earth-shaking.  The study suggests that life is more common than thought and can survive in the harshest imaginable conditions.  It also suggests that life may have originated elsewhere and landed on Earth via comet and meteor — in effect, that Earth was seeded with life forms from another place.  The apparent fossils that look familiar thrived after they arrived in Earth’s moist, oxygen-rich atmosphere; those that look unfamiliar, however, died out.  And, because scientists are uncovering evidence of increasing numbers of Earth-like planets in the galaxy, the study suggests that life could have been seeded, by the same means, on other planets.  If that is so, then the chances of intelligent extraterrestrial life forms may be greater than previously thought.

A Possible New Planet, Lurking In The Oort Cloud

The Oort Cloud  is an enormous, spherical cloud of icy objects that surrounds our solar system.  The Cloud is awesomely distant from us — somewhere between 5,000 and 100,000 times farther away from the Sun than the Sun is distant from the Earth.  The outer reaches of the Oort Cloud are thought to be trillions of miles from the Sun.  The Oort Cloud also is the source of many of the comets that eventually are tugged by the Sun’s gravity and fall toward Sol, with their tails of ice and debris spread behind them, sailing on the solar wind.

Now astronomers wonder whether the Oort Cloud hides some massive new planet that is four times the mass of Jupiter.  Some scientists suspect such a planet is there, because they believe it explains otherwise inexplicable gravitational issues observed in comets.  Others are skeptical.  They are waiting until data from a NASA sky survey initiative is released later this year, because such data should either confirm or refute the theory.

It’s hard to imagine that an object that is four times the size of Jupiter could be lurking undetected in the outer boundaries of our solar system — but then the Oort Cloud is largely unexplored, and very far away.  If the existence of a massive new planet is confirmed, it will just show, again, how much we have to learn about our little corner of the universe.