It looks like we aren’t alone in the universe after all.
Last month, we reported that comet lander Philae had reactivated in space after unexpectedly shutting down for more than half a year. Now that the probe has had a chance to wake up and rub its
eyes lenses, astronomers are finding themselves blown away by the images it’s been sending back.
They’re particularly excited about this shot:
Not the green-headed martians you were expecting, eh?
You’re actually looking at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and two scientists are arguing that its “distinct and unexpected features” are signs of extraterrestrial life. Dr Max Wallis from University of Cardiff and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, the director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, say that the large craters on the surface of the comet are refrozen bodies of water, which would create the perfect conditions for microscopic life to thrive.
They argue that life forms could reside in the cracks of the ice, as organisms containing antifreeze salts are known to be able to adapt to these environments fairly easily. In fact, the pair adds that many of these craters are littered with “organic debris,” which is a sure sign that bacteria are colonizing the area.
Both of the scientists believe the freezing conditions present on the comet would actually be more hospitable for these tiny life forms than Earth’s polar regions.
“Rosetta has already shown that the comet is not to be seen as a deep-frozen inactive body, but supports geological processes and could be more hospitable to micro-life than our Arctic and Antarctic regions,” Dr Wallis said in a statement.
Wallis and Wickramasinghe will present their findings at this year’s National Astronomy Meeting, where they’re sure to elicit some interesting reactions.
But hey, at least we won’t have to take these guys to our leader.