Cells Retrieved From Stratosphere Are Alien Life, Scientists Claim

By Breanna Draxler | September 19, 2013 3:35 pm
extraterrestrial life or alien diatom

Exhibit A: A pretty convincing case for alien life, don’t you think? Image credit: University of Sheffield

British researchers say they’ve found extraterrestrial life, and they’ve got the microscopic pictures to prove it. During a recent meteor shower, the scientists sent a balloon up into the stratosphere 16 miles above the Earth’s surface and it came back with pieces of diatoms (a type of single-celled algae). Are they alive? Probably not. But do they have DNA? Looks like it!

Because the organisms were retrieved from so incredibly high up, the researchers believe they had to have come from elsewhere in the cosmos. One of the researchers, Milton Wainwright, told the Independent:

“We’re very, very confident that these are biological entities originating from space.”

How certain? About 95 percent, he said, and continued,

“Life is not restricted to this planet and it almost certainly did not originate here.”

How can you be so sure? Because there are billions of comets where extraterrestrial life like these diatoms could have originated, he explained; the problem is that all the biologists are stuck on Earth.

extraterrestrial life in the form of an alien diatom

Image credit: University of Sheffield

The results were recently published in the peer-reviewed but controversial Journal of Cosmology. (With a homepage like this, it’s no wonder scientists question the credibility of the publication’s content.)

Further testing will determine if the alien findings are legit, but in the meantime, Wainwright told the Telegraph,

“The tension will obviously be almost impossible to live with.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mike Noel

    So, a balloon can float up to altitudes not reachable by any of the gazillions of single celled life that lives in the oceans? And even though we know that creatures like diatoms are an important atmospheric particle for seeding clouds and producing rain? And even though thunderstorms with incredibly powerful updrafts develop all over Earth every day by the thousands and can reach incredibly high into the atmosphere? hmmm…

    • Buddy199

      Paging Geraldo!

      • Donald Jones

        I agree, Mike! 95% sure? I’m 95% sure they’re one step away from achieving table top fusion.

  • Kristina Muskiewicz

    Let me break the tension for you: it’s not legit. There are several contradictions in the summary of the text alone, never mind no actual science. But go ahead and clickbait it up.

  • RAM

    “it [life] almost certainly did not originate here.” Mmm, how accurate. I wonder if they made a study before, just to make sure there’s no single celled organisms up there, before the meteor shower of course.

  • Kamran Kaghazchi Armin

    “The tension will obviously be almost impossible to live with.”
    I guess one can infer from that that Wainwright is “obviously almost” dead?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Daniel Williams

    From The Independent, “Some of the samples were captured covered with cosmic dust, adding further credence to the idea that they have originated from space

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Daniel Williams

    Also from the same article, “The particles are very clean,” added Prof Wainwright. “They don’t have any dust attached to them, which again suggests they’re not coming to earth. Similarly, cosmic dust isn’t stuck to them, so we think they came from an aquatic environment, and the most obvious aquatic environment in space is a comet.

    • Michael

      Actually if you click the “results” link and look at the actual report, the do not say “they don’t have any dust attached to them”. It says that the frustule was found with cosmic dust.

  • Ms. Kerr

    Oddly, perhaps, this does not surprise me at all.

  • Maggie Streib

    I must remember that quote. ” The tension will be impossible to live with.”

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mark Curtis

    This headline is about one exclamation point away from being ripped right off the Enquirer. My only question, “Why must you insult scientists by referring to these wackos as scientists?”

  • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

    This would be phenomenal, astounding, ground breaking, and incredibly exciting…. if I could lend any credence to it.

  • Robert H. Woodman

    How utterly unscientific.

  • Rework Oh Ryan

    We’ll need to study the composition of the rocks, to see if the materials are foreign to our world (or of an uncommon consistency of materials found on Earth). If not, they may simply be debris launched into space eons ago by asteroids, with life in them.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Jonathan Tracey

    What is an eight-letter word which describes solid waste of male cattle, and is commonly used to describe faults, useless, or counter-productive information?

  • Rita Almond

    My professor Dr. Ronald Greeley at ASU who also worked for NASA lectured in my planetary geology class about DNA, amino acids, and other probable biologic origin organics that had already been found inside meteorites before 1996, such as carbonaceous chondrites. I have touched some of these, and they resemble coal or baked soil from another planet, perhaps the one that broke apart and made most of the asteroid belt. They were therefore deeply disturbing and made me very wistful for a destroyed sister planet. I had heard that the spectral signature of chlorophyll has already been found from the moon Europa. So why such automatic pooh poohing ? This reminds me of the prejudiced resistance to plate tectonic theory which still resided in the older professors at the University of Kansas in 1974, although KU’s younger professors were actually very progressive in teaching plate tectonics so early.

  • hudasx

    It will take just one diatom taxonomist to disprove this claim.

  • MercurialPony

    I thought scientists were confident that the atmosphere, even the upper atmosphere, is teaming with microbes. Why is this highly likely of alien origin?

    • Robert H. Woodman

      I don’t know. Perhaps the research group needed to publish a paper and generate publicity for their work.

  • Metin Gunduz

    ( FEW WORDS ) regarding the claim of so called `COSMIC ORIGIN ` of DIATOM commonly known Nitzschia Species of our planet earth
    .1- The outside look of this specimen ( so called Phenotype ) is ` as the researchers correctly identify themselves` similar shape/size/structure of well known Nitzschia Species Diatom silica shell which is called `frustule` is ALMOST IDENTICAL EARTH SPECIMEN DIATOM . So
    unless proven otherwise it belongs to this PLANET EARTH . So far
    they(researchers) DID NOT offer any DNA evidence or other DNA LIKE “coding molecular structure” to prove once for all that this specimen is actually from COSMIC ORIGIN .. Without any molecular analysis of this specimen claiming Cosmic(Extra Terrestrial ) Origin is little to early . Once the molecular (if any) structure identified even with “X ray diffraction methods” of this silica frustule – shell and compared to similar Diatoms of Planet Earth than we can start talking about origins of this Diatom being Cosmic or Earthling .

    2- There is definite `lack of confidence and reliability problem ` on the specimen taking technique at the stratosphere , especially mechanical opening of so called `drawer` to expose Electron Microscope Stubs to Stratosphere air , drawer itself might have contaminated at the low altitudes during balloon travel (Diatoms stuck on the drawer itself ) and once it is opened mechanically by remote control at the stratosphere it might have `sprayed` the Electron Microscope Stubs with Diatoms carried all the way up to stratosphere from the low altitude contamination .

    3- MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor ) concept is fundamental molecular vise UNIQUE for any evolved life forms in any Habitable Planet in the Universe . Though Diatom they phenotypically ( visually) identified as a simple single cell Chlorophyll carrying organism , it is evolutionary vise very complex molecular structure single cell organism , they carry Chlorophyll in their plasmids which is `shared` as MRCA with all the Chlorophyll carrying organisms of our planet
    Earth all the way up to `Cherry` or `Apple tree leaves ` Chlorophyll carrying Plasmids so to speak as well as other molecules coded by its genome . In other words from very first primitive life form to the most advanced life forms we are all connected to each other through MRCA in our planet earth – No exception ever seen so far – .. So any ET(Extra Terrestrial ) Cosmic origin LIFE FORM ( Diatom in this case) SHOULD BE COMPLETELY OUT OF THE `MRCA` CLOSELY LINKED MOLECULAR STRUCTURE FAMILY TREE OF OUR PLANET EARTH .. Until they prove that this `Diatom like structure` has unique molecular structure NOT SHARED WITH ANY OTHER
    SO CALLED- EARTHLING DIATOM ….Their claim is nothing but just a speculation of Cosmic origin .

    4- Since probable “contamination`at low altitude is real issue here , because of the specimen obtaining technique used there is no need to speculate further regarding `How this heavy Diatom frustule` got carried up all the way 22 Kilometers high in the stratosphere ..Once the specimen technique improved with higher reliability to exclude `low altitude atmospheric contamination` than we can look into the possible ( if any? ) causes of this Diatoms floating in Stratosphere`s thin air .

    Thank you
    Dr.Metin Gunduz
    September 21st , 2013

  • 0xabad1dea

    Reporting on The Journal of Cosmology as if it were a real journal is completely unbecoming of a science blogger. If these people have used actually sound methods to recover diatoms from a place it is actually unexpected to find them, then they will have no trouble getting that published in a real journal — minus “therefore aliens!” of course, which is sensationalism fit only for the Journal of Cosmology. Really, any amount of googling at all, based on the suspicion of their clownish website, should easily reveal crank after crank after crank extraordinary claim lacking evidence.

  • anoynamouse

    any chance that one of the millions of volcanos that have had MAJOR eruptions in the last million years could be to blame? There’s been a few that darkened the skies for years to come…and sent material this high, right?

  • rgrandall

    Show me the left-handed DNA …..

  • live and let live

    Rita: the reason for all the pooh-poohing is not just that the claim has been made that it’s of extraterrestrial origin, but that these dingbats want to claim that they can ONLY be extraterrestrial in nature without any rigorous and impartial studies to determine the most likely source, or perhaps some real smoking-gun type evidence that is convincing to all of us. Yes, I’d LOVE it if these turned out to be true extraterrestrial artfacts, but I much prefer as much evidence as possible to support both ideas before coming to any conclusions.

    It’s ironic that this story is published side-by-side with the story of the “ballooning spiders” that manage to loft themselves to amazing heights on multiple strands of charged filaments that repel each other with negative charges. We need to spend some time thinking outside the box, imagining other mechanisms for such diatoms being present at such extreme heights– including some form of heretofore unnoticed electrostatic phenomena… perhaps sunshine hitting the upper side of said diatoms as they rose in the sky, providing a certain weak but steady bias as to the direction they might then travel.

  • Jim Donivan

    Rather than respond with our religious fantasy…
    why not wait to see what evaluation gives us?

    • Alex Cooper


  • Alex Cooper

    Oh my. Hello all pessimists out there… Haven’t read one positive comment and I completely understand lol (I don’t necessarily believe it to be true) but… It’s still exciting. I love to read interesting but far out claims even if they turn out to be wrong. Brings us one step closer to
    potentially figuring out what we don’t know :) How about look at the exciting possibilities rather than thinking you are so smart and scientific because it seems so ludicrous. I don’t mean to chirp, because it definitely is far out… but since it will be so easy to test and prove or disprove… how about shut up. It only takes one “crazy” sounding guy to look past what we think we know to discover something new!

    • Robert H. Woodman

      Alex Cooper, please see the reply of live and let live to Rita that is below your comment. He very clearly and succinctly states why so many of us object to this article. To put it mildly, the authors reached a controversial conclusion with completely insufficient examination of possible alternatives that would be less controversial. Had they reached this conclusion following a proper, thorough, scientific investigation, many of us would be less vociferous in our objections to the paper.

  • Cynthia Doke

    The cosmology homepage is a joke. Look at some of the books atthe bottom. Like challenging the big bang theory. I looked it up and the description of the book is a joke

  • Vulcan With a Mullet

    Perhaps it was Hot Air that lofted these tiny critters into the stratosphere! Either that or a hefty dose of Hype. I happen to have it on sound evidence that these two forces are especially abundant in the vicinity of press releases. It’s certainly enough of an effect to cause both diatoms and crazy ideas to float around the world.

  • tfosorcim

    How UTTERLY scientific: to question the credibility of a publication’s content because of that publication’s homepage.

    Looks to me as if this is exactly the kind of experience needed to attract more young people to science.

    Reminds me of the time I was asked to recommend a text suitable for
    students new to mathematics, which would kindle their interest, and keep
    them wanting more. I recommended the outstanding book, ‘Mathematics: A
    Human Endeavor’. The suggestion was turned down, because “…the book
    contains cartoons…”.

    Does the shabby treatment of Carl Sagan by “respected” (but not by me) scientists ring a bell?

    Just saying…

    • tfosorcim

      As all you scientists know from your sterling mathematical grounding, the distribution of dolts and blockheads in the scientific community should be exactly the same as the distribution of dolts and blockheads in the general worldwide community of man.

      SHOULD be, except for the tremendous skew introduced by prejudice.

  • Tanai Cardona Londoño

    Diatoms originated on Earth in the Jurassic period by an endosymbiosis event of an Eukaryote and a red algae. It is absurd and utterly impossible to think that Diatoms could have originated in another planet. It might have been that the comet that killed the dinosaurs ejected some diatoms into space and stayed orbiting the planet.

  • kalyanearth

    May be an alien spacecraft visiting Earth would have carried this diatom
    with them in order to synthesize diatomite which is used in fireproof
    cement, Insulation materials, dynamites that explains they use it in
    advance weaponry or heat shield. or some force field for their


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Briefing you on the must-know news and trending topics in science and technology today.

See More

Collapse bottom bar