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British scientists claim to have harvested alien organisms from space

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Sep 20, 2013, 1:34 PM EDT

Alien life may really be out there, and it may be closer than you think.

A team of British scientists recently floated a balloon into the stratosphere, more than 16 miles up, and when it came down they found it was carrying tiny organisms. Their conclusion? The organisms must have come from space.

"By all known information that science has, we know that they must be coming in from space," said Professor Milton Wainwright of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Sheffield. "There is no known mechanism by which these life forms can achieve that height. As far as we can tell from known physics, they must be incoming."

Wainwright said he's "95 percent convinced" and "very, very confident that these are biological entities originating from space," though he does admit that it's hard to achieve absolute certainty. Apart from the height of the organisms, which would make it hard to imagine them being from Earth, Wainwright and his team also noted that they bear no physical signs of ever being earthbound.

"The organisms are not usual," he said. "If they came from earth, we would expect to see stuff that we find on earth commonly, like pollen."

Wainwright also ruled out the possibility that the particles were originally from Earth and were blasted into the stratosphere by a volcano, noting that it's been too long since the last volcanic eruption on Earth for the particles to have maintained such a height. So, if they did come from space, where did they originate? Where did their lives begin? Based on the nature of the organisms, Wainwright is convinced they were once part of a comet.

"The particles are very clean," Wainwright said. "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.

"They're very unusual beasts, not your normal kind of life from earth."

And to make the potential ramifications of this discovery even more exicting, Wainright notes that -- while they may no longer be alive -- the organisms are likely to contain DNA. If that's true, it could further the idea that life on Earth may have had its beginnings in space.

"If we're right, it means that there's life in space, and it's coming to earth. It means that life on earth probably originated in space," said Professor Wainwright. "Statistically, there's no reason why life should originate on earth. There are billions and billions of comets, but most biologists are stuck on earth.

"The earth is an open system with biology raining down on it as we speak.

"It's almost too amazing to believe."

The team plans to try the balloon text again next month to see if they can both confirm their results and find new organisms in upcoming meteor shower tied to Halley's comet. What do you think? Is this really alien life, or just some Earthbound cluster of organisms that somehow managed to fly a little too high?

(Via The Independent)