A recent transmission from the spacecraft Philae revealed that it could be aboard a comet hosting alien life, suggested two scientists on Monday.
Months after Europe's robot probe Philae lost contact with Earth due to a lack of solar power, it finally regained contact with the European Space Agency and the information it transmitted could clarify the possibility of other life in the universe.
The lander, which touched down on the strangely dark and unreflective comet, 67P, could have an explanation for the comet's strange appearance: alien life.
67P, otherwise known as Churyumov-Gerasimenko, features black hydrocarbon crust over lakes of ice, icy "seas," and flat-bottomed craters filled with re-frozen water containing debris--all of which are "consistent" with the presence of living organisms under the surface of the ice.
Rosetta, the European Spacecraft orbiting the comet, also noticed odd groupings of organic materials that seem similar to viral particles.
Philae first detached from the Rosetta and landed on the comet in November, but soon stopped functioning after 67P moved too far from the sun, thereby depriving the machine of it's needed solar power. The lander awoke in June after it's solar panels recharged. All of this comes after Rosetta's 10 year, four billion mile journey to the comet.
Max Wallis of the University of Cardiff said in a statement issued by the Royal Astronomical Society, after examining the lander's findings, that 67P "is not to be seen as a deep-frozen inactive body, but supports geological processes."
Wallis called these lifeforms similar to the "extremophiles" that survive in Earth's harshest locations, saying that the comet "could be more hospitable to micro-life than our Arctic and Antarctic regions." Microbes can survive at temperatures below -40 degrees fahrenheit if they can produce anti-freeze salts.
Wallis, and his colleague Chandra Wickramasinghe, presented their theory of life on Monday during a meeting of the RAS, citing the comet's complex organic material as "evidence of life."
Despite these possibilities, Philae does not have the technology to search for evidence of life after the suggestion to install the necessary equipment was shot down.
Wickramasinghe also said that microorganisms could have colonized the comet through cracks in the ice and snow that would appear as 67P's orbit closes in on the sun and warms the comet.
He also suggested that microbes under the surface of the comet had been "building pockets of high pressure gases that crack overlying ice and vent organic particles."
The duo also speculated that as 67P approaches its closest point to the sun, about 115 million miles on August 13, "the micro-organisms should become increasingly active," as the planet warms and the solids turn to gasses. The pair hope that the Rosetta and Philae will be able to record the event.
"These are not easily explained in terms of prebiotic chemistry. The dark material is being constantly replenished as it is boiled off by heat from the sun. Something must be doing that at a fairly prolific rate," Wickramasinghe said.
Wickramasinghe is known for having views a little out-of-the-ordinary. In the past he has suggested that the SARS virus came to earth from space.
Despite Wallis and Wickramasinghe's reasoning, others disagree with their pronouncement.
"I think it is highly unlikely," said Professor Monica Grady of the Open University, who helped design one of the instruments carried by Philae.
More scientists echo that sentiment.
It's pure speculation," said the project scientist behind Rosetta, Dr. Matt Taylor. "I think it is unlikely."