Journal of Cosmology, 2013, Vol. 22, pp 10183-10188 (accepted August 9, 2013)
ISOLATION OF A DIATOM FRUSTULE FRAGMENT FROM THE LOWER STRATOSPHERE (22-27Km)-EVIDENCE FOR A COSMIC ORIGIN
Milton Wainwright 1,4, Christopher E. Rose2, Alexander J. Baker2 ,Briston, K.J 3 and N. Chandra
Wickramasinghe4 Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology1, Leonardo Centre for Tribilogy2, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Materials Science and Engineering3, University of Sheffield, UK; and Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, University of Buckingham, UK4. Abstract Sampling of the stratosphere at heights between 22 and 27 km was carried out in the UK on 31st July 2013 using balloon-borne equipment carrying aseptically clean electron microscope stubs onto which aerosols were directly captured. The experiment revealed the presence of a diatom frustule captured from a height of >25km. On account of the very short residence time of particles of diatom size and mass at these heights, we argue for its incidence from space, with a probable origin in the watery environment of a comet. Keywords: Stratosphere, diatoms, comets, panspermia Introduction There have been a number of investigations showing that viable bacteria and fungi exist in both the lower (Griffin, 2004, 2008, Smith et al, 2010) and the upper stratosphere over the altitude range 20km-60km (Imshenetsky et al,1978, Bigg, 1984; Greene et al, 1964; Harris et al, 2002; Wainwright et al, 2003,2004; Yang et al, 2008,2009; Shivaji et al, 2009). Since a number of different methodological approaches have been used in these studies, and a range of different microbes have been isolated from the stratosphere using a variety of approaches, there is little doubt that microbes do exist in the stratosphere. Such organisms are unlikely to grow in this "high cold biosphere" but survive instead in the dormant state as "extremodures" (Wainwright, 2008); the fact that bacteria and fungi can be grown on isolation media when returned to Earth shows however, that these stratosphere- derived microbes remain viable despite exposure to the extreme rigours of the stratosphere. Here we report, using a relatively simple low-cost stratospheric sampling methodology, the isolation of a particle which, beyond doubt, is a fragment of a diatom frustule. We believe that this is the first- ever report of the isolation of a diatom frustule from the stratosphere and we provide arguments to support our view that this biological particle may have arrived from space. Materials and Methods A balloon-launched sampling device was released from Chester, NW England on 31st July 2013. The sampler included a drawer mechanism that could be opened and closed at any desired height using telemetry. The stratosphere sampler carried a video camera by which the opening and closing of the sampling draw was viewed, confirmed and recorded. The sampling apparatus was protected from downfall of particulate matter from the balloon by a...