ALIEN SLIME SHOCKER: Approaching comet probably NOT inhabited, say boffins

Gunge-oid blobomination invasion not on cards

Philae takes a first look at the surface of Comet 67P

The Rosetta probe's Earth-bound shepherds have sternly stated that suggestions of alien life within comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko - around which the probe is in orbit - are "pure speculation".

Let us put aside the conflict humanity will eventually face if and when we do encounter alien life for a later date, and report merely how the hunt there for is prone to producing disagreement amongst the largely patient and agreeable astroboffins.

Talking at an astroboffinry conference in Llandudno on Monday, Dr Max Wallace and Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe suggested that the approaching 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko could contain alien "organisms", perhaps of a sort similar to those found in slime, which might become "active" as the comet nears the Sun and warms up.

A statement from the Royal Astronomical Society questioned whether micro-organisms might be responsible for the curious sinkholes which are observable on the surface of 67P.

Images of 67/P, credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM -CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

Wallace and Wickramasinghe argued that the features of 67/P were consistent with a mixture of ice and organic material that consolidated as the comet received more of the sun's warmth, allowing active micro-organisms to be supported.

According to the Guardian, however, boffins involved in the Rosetta probe have dismissed the suggestions.

"No scientist active in any of the Rosetta instrument science teams assumes the presence of living micro-organisms beneath the cometary surface crust," Uwe Meierhenrich of Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, France, told the Graun.

"I think it is highly unlikely," Professor Monica Grady of the Open University told the paper. Grady helped design the stunningly sophisticated Ptolemy instrument carried by Philae, Rosetta's lander.

Additionally, Dr Matt Taylor, Death Metal physicist, also dismissed the claims.

"It's pure speculation," he said: "I think it is unlikely."

Astroboffins on social media have turned up the criticism somewhat too, noting Professor Wickramasinghe's quite regular claims about the presence of alien life in various areas which were also criticised as being speculative and without merit.

We asked Professor Wickramasinghe for a response regarding these issues, and clarification regarding the possibility of life on 67/P. We reproduce his reply in full:

I think that this is based on a deep-rooted prejudice to depart from the idea of Earth life being centred on the Earth. After the Earth was dethroned from its position of physical centrality in the Universe, 500 years ago, Earth-centred biology still prevails.

I think the life evidence from 67P is indirect, but is possibly as strong as it can get from the experiments that are available on Philae and Rosetta. This evidence should be assessed as part of a multifaceted case for extraterrestrial life that has developed over the past 3 decades. The resistance from people who have contrary vested interests is of course natural and to be expected.

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