'Fifty Planets' Could Have Life

Last Updated 05/06/05 22:44

The following article was published by “BBC News”, 1st April, 2004

'Fifty Planets' Could Have Life
 Astronomers estimate about half the planetary systems so far discovered in our galaxy could contain Earth-like worlds. And they say that space telescopes will be capable of observing these planets and investigating them to see if they support life in about 15 years' time. Scientists have recently discovered more than 100 stars other than our Sun with planets circling about them.
But they are all giant planets like Jupiter that cannot sustain life. Planets more like the Earth should, in theory, exist too. But they are too small to be seen using current technology.

Computer Modelling
Research work by the UK's Open University suggests there are perhaps 50 or so of these small, rocky bodies on which there is liquid water and possibly life. "We would certainly expect them to be something like Earth in size and in mass, to have a reasonable atmosphere; they'll have oceans and continents, they'll be potential abodes of life, but the big question is - has there actually been life there?" astronomer Professor Barrie Jones told BBC News Online.
His team used computer modelling to calculate the likely number of habitable planets, based on what we know about how planets form and the conditions needed for life. The planets would exist in what is sometimes referred to as the "Goldilocks" zone, a region set back from the parent star where
it is neither too hot for liquid water, nor too cold.
By launching "Earths" into a variety of orbits in this zone and following their progress with the computer model, the small planets have been found to suffer a variety of fates.

Atmospheric clues
In some systems, the proximity of one or more Jupiter-like planets results in gravitational ejection of the "Earth" from anywhere in the habitable zone. However, in other cases there are safe havens in parts of the
Goldilocks zone, and in the remainder the entire zone is a safe haven.
Nine of the known exoplanetary systems have been investigated in detail using this technique, enabling the team to derive the basic rules that determine the habitability of the remaining 90 or so systems.
At the moment, it is just a theory, but by the middle of the next decade, we should have the technology to search directly for Earth-like planets.The new generation of space telescopes will look for gases given off by living things in the atmospheres of distant worlds.

Distant wonder
Finding chemicals such as carbon dioxide, water and ozone would be intriguing evidence of life.
But even if those chemical signs were detected, it would not be possible to send a space mission, Professor Jones said.
"It's likely the nearest Earth-type world in the habitable zone would be a few tens of light-years away, maybe 100 light-years away; that's being optimistic," he told BBC News Online.
"There's not much prospect of travelling to these worlds; all we can do is rely on instruments orbiting somewhere in the solar system and making observations.
"I think we could be in the rather frustrating position of having indirect evidence of life through the nature of the atmosphere but not being absolutely certain and not having any prospect of becoming absolutely certain in the foreseeable future."

Professor Jones gave details of the modelling work at the UK's National Astronomy Meeting in Milton Keynes. Its results are more optimistic than a similar study led by Dr Kristen Menou, of Princeton University, US, last year which found perhaps less than a quarter of extrasolar planetary systems might contain Earth-like worlds.




 UFOs, Abductions, and Ancient Astronauts by Ben Bova



(for Astrobiolgy Magazine, NASA)

Moffett Field (SPX) May 04, 2004

I believe that life exists beyond the Earth. I believe that intelligent life must exist somewhere in the vast universe of stars and galaxies. I recognize that there is, as yet, no evidence to support this belief of mine.

Precisely because I am a "believer," in this sense, I remain guardedly skeptical about claims of UFOs, alien abductions, and ancient astronauts. It is all too easy to fall for unsupported stories that tell us what we want to believe. I would like to see some scrap of hard, palpable evidence; maybe as much as a person would take to traffic court to prove he wasn't illegally parked when he got a ticket.

I can relate three incidents in my own experience that have shaped my attitude about UFOs: my own UFO sighting, a laboratory analysis of a metal sample purportedly taken from a UFO, and an encounter with the redoubtable Erich Von Daniken, author of "Chariots of the Gods" and similar books.

My UFO sighting.

I was having brunch with my family in the restaurant atop the Prudential Tower in Boston. It was a sparkling clear Sunday morning, and from our window-side seat we could see all the way out to the hills of New Hampshire. Suddenly I noticed, off on that distant horizon, a small red aircraft darting back and forth at impossible speeds, making maneuvers no human airplane could make. A UFO! I thought.

Fortunately, there was an observation deck one floor below the restaurant. I raced down and trained one of the telescopes there on the UFO. It turned out to be a child's kite. With no way to judge its true distance, my mind assumed at first that it was on the horizon. At that distance, its stunts and speeds were phenomenal. At the distance of a few blocks away, it was quite normal.

A laboratory analysis.

When I was the editor of Omni magazine, we worked hard to track down UFO stories. They always somehow vanished into smoke and air. One day a gentleman came into my office bearing a sliver of metal that, he claimed, had been scraped from the hull of a flying saucer. "It's unlike any metal on Earth," he kept repeating.

It struck me and the rest of the editorial staff that it might be pretty difficult to scratch off a sliver of such a metal. We suggested that we take it to a reputable metallurgy laboratory for analysis. The visitor was very reluctant to do so. At last, after several hours, we persuaded him to go to Boston with one of our editors and have the sample analyzed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He agreed only after we promised to pay all the expenses for the trip.

MIT reported that the metal was ordinary aluminum, the stuff of cooking pots and skillets. It may have come from the hull of a flying saucer; aluminum is a good structural metal for flying vehicles. But it certainly was not "unlike any metal on Earth."

Erich Von Daniken.

I was invited to appear on a televised panel discussion with Von Daniken in Toronto. He spoke about certain passages in the Old Testament that showed that Moses may have used a laser weapon against the enemies of the Israelites. And where could he get a laser in those ancient times, except from visiting aliens? Watching his performance, I began to understand the technique of half-truths that he was using. When it came my turn to speak, I said that by using the same technique that Von Daniken used, I could show that Manhattan was built by ancient astronauts.

The show's host was intrigued and asked me to proceed.

There is plenty of evidence that mysterious Manhattan was built by ancient astronauts, I began. For example, there is a park in the middle of the island that is perfectly rectangular, but you can't see its rectangular shape from the ground. You must be high in the air, perhaps even in orbit, to see the true shape of Central Park. Then, too, the main thoroughfares of Manhattan run north-south, the same alignment as the Earth's magnetic field.

What do people call the tallest buildings in Manhattan? Skyscrapers. Where do these towers point? Toward the stars. Moreover, there is a giant copper statue in Manhattan's harbor that no human being could possibly build (A team of humans could and did, but no individual could raise the Statue of Liberty by himself.)

The show's host and other panelists guffawed. Von Daniken left and returned to his native Switzerland.

Skepticism is a valuable trait, although it can be carried too far.

Thomas Jefferson did not believe that meteors were bodies of rock and metal that fell to Earth from outer space. When informed that two professors at Yale had claimed so, he said, "I would rather believe that two Yankee professors would lie than stones fall out of the sky."

The essence of science is measurement and proof. Ideas must be tested before they are accepted as valid. Indeed, this concept of testability is central to scientific understanding. Every idea, every measurement, must be tested to see if it holds up under examination.

Isaac Asimov once said that he had no argument with reports of UFOs. "It's the IFOs that bother me," he added. Yes, there are unidentified objects seen in the sky. But the conclusion that these unidentified objects are extraterrestrial visitors is unsupported by any solid evidence, even after more than half a century.

Turn the question around. Look at the UFO phenomenon from the viewpoint of the alleged alien visitors. If you had traveled across many light-years of space and found a planet that bears intelligent life, would you confine your activities to stunt flying in the dark of night and abducting random individuals for obscure medical examinations?

More likely you would either announce your presence in an unmistakable manner or you would keep yourself hidden from human detection while you study the Earth and its inhabitants without interfering with the subject of your study.

There may be myriads of highly advanced extraterrestrial civilizations. Their representatives may indeed be swarming over our planet. We simply have no credible evidence of it.

During the American Civil War, when reports from the battlefields were often unreliable, many newspapers used a headline that warned their readers that the story they were about to read might not be accurate. The headline was, "Good News, If True."

That is how I feel about UFO reports. It would be wonderful to know that we are being visited by intelligent aliens. But I doubt that it's true.




Inflation-Theory Implications For Extraterrestrial Visitation


The following article was published by The Journal of the British Interplanetary Society in January 2005 (This is something the Journal does rather infrequently).

Read Article Here - PDF Format (Adobe Reader)



India may be the first country to explain to the world about extra-terrestrial and UFO contacts!


The following article was published in “India Daily” on 6th January, 2005

India may be the first country to explain to the world about extra-terrestrial and UFO contacts – the secret debate is on!

New Delhi is in the middle of a big secret internal debate. On one side the largest democracy of the world is eager to explain to its citizens and to the world about the ongoing contacts with the UFOs and extra-terrestrials. On the other hand there are invisible untold international protocols that prohibit doing anything that may cause worldwide fear and panic.

It is well accepted between the UFO and extra-terrestrial experts that all the five nuclear powers are in contact with the beings from other stars for quite some time. Recently India has seen enormous news on UFO contacts and secret UFO bases in Himalayas near the Chinese bases. In Ladak, for example the locals clearly point out the everyday phenomenon of large triangular spacecrafts coming out below the ground and Indian security forces protecting them. Military officials and politicians have confessed the fact that India has been contacted. India has been told the rules of the Universe.

The current debate is on whether to keep it secret like other countries are doing or in tradition of a total transparent society come out and tell the truth. India is so open and democratic; it is very difficult to keep a secret for long. The biggest concern of the Government today is that unlike in other countries, it will be very difficult to keep it secret for long. If the information comes out through unofficial channels first and then the authorities are pressed against the wall to confess, two bad things can happen. First, it can really cause a panic in the country as well as the world. Second, the way the Indian politics is run, the ruling party will be thrown out of power in no time i it is ever found that the Government withheld such information from the public.

The recent rush of world leaders to India is remarkable. Starting from Russian President Putin to major Senators from America have visited or are planning to visit India. European Union is in deep discussion with India on cooperation. All sanctions against India’s nuclear programs and Indian Space Research Organization are in the process of being lifted. India is cooperating with Europeans and the Americans in space explorations and technology research program. India is also part of World Trade Organization. India is receiving major outsourcing contracts in IT and call-center service work from America and Europe. India’s Forex reserve is at a level never imagined before because of international direct investments from Western nations, Japan, Korea and others. Interestingly, China the arc rival of India changed its posture in the last few years to make India’s friendship and trade a priority. India is slowly getting to the point when it is accepted as a permanent member of the Security Council. All the five Security Council members China, America, Russia, France and UK support India’s inclusion.

When all these factors are added together and analyzed, it seems like India is being told by the world to abide by the hidden protocols and in exchange be recognized as a major emerging superpower. The debate the country is facing internally is whether to abide by the laws of the world and the Universe to be recognized as a superpower or be truthful to its citizens and the world.

According to sources close to the Government, the UFO contacts is known by quite a few politicians in the opposition and of course by those who are in power. The military has legitimate concern of not letting the secrets out either.

Recently, India’s foreign affairs minister Mr. Natwar Singh came out and said that for India it was not necessary to become a nuclear power. He is a strong supporter of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, India’s former Prime Minister who initiated the nuclear program in the mid sixties. India first exploded a nuclear device in Pokhran in early seventies. The whole country including people from his own party questioned Mr. Singh for such an irresponsible statement. But on analyzing his statements, it is evident, that based on what he knows now, being a nuclear power really does not matter much because the technologies controlled by the extra-terrestrials are so advanced that all our technologies mean really nothing. But importantly he may be irritated with this controversial ongoing secret debate and what he really meant was that if India was not a nuclear power, the debate on UFO and extra-terrestrials will never be there in India.



Liminal UFOs And The Alien Raison D'Etre - by Mac Tonnies



 Why don't aliens make open contact? Why do they seem content with taunting our aircraft and haunting lonely night roads? Why the elusiveness that's characterized the UFO phenomenon since the modern era of sightings began in the late 1940s?

There are a multitude of reasons a visiting civilization would refrain from 'landing on the White House lawn', foremost among them the potentially debilitating effect open contact might wreak on terrestrials. History shows that relatively advanced sea-faring cultures topple less developed cultures, in part by collapsing defining assumptions and rendering cultural self-hood obsolete. If we're of any research value to a visiting civilization then interfering at the macro-sociological level might threaten to destroy thousands of years of patient work.

The paradox is that UFOs do exhibit an interest in our activities. But it's a cryptic, behind-the-scenes sort of interest: clandestine-seeming at first take but, on closer inspection, almost alarmingly conspicuous, like a silent plea for attention.

One idea to account for this behavior is that the UFO intelligence somehow hinges on our belief in it (a notion that assumes an esoteric origin instead of the more common 'nuts and bolts' extraterrestrial hypothesis). In this scenario, the UFOs are engaged in an elaborate act of psychic propaganda, preparing our collective unconscious for the idea of 'others,' ET or otherwise. It's well worth remembering that humanity's interaction with apparent visitors is hardly limited to alleged space travelers in the 20th century; Jacques Vallee's classic Passport To Magonia offers strong support to the - admittedly slippery - prospect that the UFO intelligence was functioning under the guise of faerie lore in Europe centuries before the idea of spaceflight became fashionable.

It's possible that UFOs would like to initiate something like formal contact but are restrained from doing so by the physics of perception, as Whitley Strieber has suggested. So the pageant in our skies might be an ongoing indoctrination, an attempt to become more substantial - in our universe, at least - so that a more meaningful dialogue can be reached at some indeterminate point in the future. One way of achieving this might be to cultivate a milieu of incipience, in which nonhuman contact (or disclosure) seems inevitable. In fact, this illusory notion of an impending ufological 'smoking gun' has left a pronounced signature on the history of UFO research, often forcing investigators to take sides in a fruitless - if colorful - ideological battle that reduces the UFO enigma to trite discussion of galactic federations and Orwellian government oversight.

If UFOs are attempting to breach our universe, our ingrained sense of disbelief might be preventing them in some arcane quantum mechanical sense. Strieber has argued that official denial of the phenomenon is designed to thwart a potential invasion of nonhuman intelligence, in which case it seems an enduring stalemate has been reached - with occasional power-plays made by both the UFOs and earthly officialdom. This idea is similar to the citizens of the Planck Brane in Rudy Rucker's science fiction epic, Frek And The Elixir. In Rucker's novel, the inhabitants of a parallel universe must accumulate a critical level of prestige and notoriety or else cease to exist. The ruling class consists of six individuals who are so well-known and casually accepted by the other Planck Braners that they persist with their individuality intact while their fellows vanish during periodic "renormalization storms"; only when the main characters deride and purposefully ignore them to they fade into the quantum background. Strieber takes a similar idea and runs with it in his horror novel, The Forbidden Zone, which depicts a reality-bending alien presence set loose upon a small town in the wake of a quantum experiment gone awry.
The overriding theme, which we find prevalent in occult literature, is that our universe is permeable and can, under specific circumstances, provide a channel to unseen realms (an idea that's remarkably similar to contemporary thought on wormhole travel). Of immediate interest is Aleister Crowley's 'Lam', a "magickal" entity who bears an uncanny resemblance to today's 'Grays'. Unlike Lam, who functioned as a mentor and paraphysical guru, the Grays are typically assumed to be dispassionate ET scientists; if Crowley were practicing his consciousness experiments today, would he be greeted by dome-headed beings in skin-tight jumpsuits? (Perhaps it pays for aliens to stay in touch with predominant memes if it entails making a lasting impression. The presence of awkward, quasi-human 'Men In Black,' chronicled in detail by Kenny Randles and John Keel, suggest that aliens may have already infiltrated - perhaps in order to refine the art of passing as typical Earthlings. If so, what's the ultimate agenda?)

We're left with a surreal residue of encounters and sightings that describe an intelligence operating at the periphery of human consciousness. Whether this is due to deliberate intent or can be attributed to obstruction (willful or innocuous) remains
one of ufology's most significant unanswered questions.

Mac Tonnies




Patrick Moore asks “Is there Life elsewhere?”

In the July 2005 edition of “The Sky at Night” (BBC 1) Patrick Moore asked “Is there life elsewhere, beyond the Earth?” and if so, “what is it like, where is it and can we contact it?”

Patrick Moore
Patrick Moore - eminent astronomer asks "Is there life elsewhere?"

Professor Simon Morris
Professor Simon Morris.
Professor Monica Grady.
Professor Monica Grady.

To answer these questions Patrick had invited Professor Simon Conway Morris (University of Cambridge) and Professor Monica Grady (Planetary and Space Sciences, Open University) to the studio.

There follows a summary of the discussion:

Professor Morris : Life should be common because we now know that the building blocks of life are common even in interstellar space. The process of life can happen anywhere.

Professor Grady: We know life can be found almost anywhere, in the most unexpected places. Mars is very similar to Earth, it has two ice caps, one of which is water-rich. However, life on Mars will probably be extinct, not even dormant. Jupiter’s moon, Europa, has an icy crust over a liquid ocean and because it is warm there could well be simple life there because of the probable existence of hydrothermal vents. This life would be bacteria and animals living on that bacteria.

Patrick Moore: We know that there are 100,000 million stars in our Galaxy…..

Professor Morris: The potential for life in our galaxy is enormous, life is very robust. But the solar systems we have detected are radically different from ours.

Where there is life it might be in a rut. Intelligence might be rare. Other solar systems are much less “friendly” than ours, for instance, a large moon might be necessary for intelligent life. But it seems incredible to believe that we are the only intelligent life. However, there is evidence to suggest that there are more things out there than we can imagine. The building blocks for life were definitely brought to Earth from space.

If E.T. arrived on Earth they would ask:

“What are you doing to your planet? We cannot rely on being baled out by friendly aliens!”

Professor Grady: The way we treat our planet is an atrocious example to aliens.

We really must be better stewards before we can go out and explore with a clear conscience.

Patrick Moore, Professor Simon Conway Morris and Monica Grady discuss the existence of life beyond our Earth. Does this discussion signify a major change in attitude over the last 30 years?

Mars - Water rich icecap.
Mars - Water rich icecap.
The Earth's Moon
The Earth's Moon - provides incredible stability to the Earth. Could it a be a necessity for intelligent life to evolve?

Jupiter's moon Europa
Jupiter's moon Europa - probably supports primitive life.
Primitive lifeforms
Primitive lifeforms exist near hydrothermal vents in the Earth's oceans. Do they also exist on Europa?


Skepticism greets claim of possible alien microbes

The following article was published in “World Science”, 5th January, 2006

The particles  magnified 1000 times.

Kerala - South-west India.

A paper to appear in a scientific journal claims a strange red rain might have dumped microbes from space onto Earth four years ago. But the report is meeting with a shower of skepticism from scientists who say extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof—and this one hasn’t got it.
The scientists agree on two points, though. The things look like cells, at least superficially. And no one is sure what they are.
                  “These particles have much similarity with biological cells though they are devoid of DNA,” wrote Godfrey Louis and A. Santhosh Kumar of Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, India, in the controversial paper.
                  “Are these cell-like particles a kind of alternate life from space?”

The mystery began when the scarlet showers containing the red specks hit parts of India in 2001. Researchers said the particles might be dust or a fungus, but it remained unclear. The new paper includes a chemical analysis of the particles, a description of their appearance under microscopes and a survey of where they fell. It assesses various explanations for them and concludes that the specks, which vaguely resemble red blood cells, might have come from a meteor.
A peer-reviewed research journal, Astrophysics and Space Science, has agreed to publish the paper. The journal sometimes publishes unconventional findings, but rarely if ever ventures into generally acknowledged fringe science such as claims of extraterrestrial visitors. If the particles do represent alien life forms, said Louis and Kumar, this would fit with a longstanding theory called panspermia, which holds that life forms could travel around the universe inside comets and meteors.
These rocky objects would thus “act as vehicles for spreading life in the universe,” they added. They posted the paper online this week on a database where astronomers often post research papers.
Louis and Kumar have previously posted other, unpublished papers saying the particles can grow if placed in extreme heat, and reproduce. But the Astrophysics and Space Science paper doesn’t include these claims. It mostly limits itself to arguing for the particles’ meteoric origin, citing newspaper reports that a meteor broke up in the atmosphere hours before the red rain.
John Dyson, managing editor of Astrophysics and Space Science, confirmed it has accepted the paper. But he said he hasn’t read it because his co-managing editor, the European Space Agency’s Willem Wamsteker, handled it. Wamsteker died several weeks ago at age 63.
A paper’s publication in a peer-reviewed journal is generally thought to give it some stamp of scientific seriousness, because scientists vet the findings in the process. Nonetheless, the red rain paper provoked disbelief.
              “I really, really don’t think they are from a meteor!” wrote Harvard University biologist Jack Szostak of the particles, in an email. And this isn’t the first report of red rain of biological origin, Szostak wrote, though it seems to be the most detailed.


Szostak said the chemical tests the researchers employed aren’t very sensitive. The so-called cells are admittedly “weird,” he added, saying he would ask his microbiologist friends what they think they are.
           “I don’t have an obvious explanation,” agreed prominent origins-of-life researcher David Deamer of the University of California Santa Cruz, in an email. They “look like real cells, but with a very thick cell wall. But the leap to an extraterrestrial form of life delivered to Earth must surely be the least likely hypothesis.”

A range of additional tests is needed, he added. Louis agreed: “There remains much to be studied,” he wrote in an email. The researchers didn’t dispute the panspermia theory itself, which has a substantial scientific following.               
        “Panspermia may well be possible,” wrote Lynn J. Rothschild of the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., in an email. “I’m just not so sure that this is a case of it.”

Others viewed the study more favorably.

             “I think more careful examination of the red rain material is needed, but so far there seems to be a strong prima facie [first-glance] case to suggest that this may be correct,” said Chandra Wickramasinghe, director of the Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology at Cardiff University, U.K., and a leading advocate of panspermia.
The story of the specks began on July 25, 2001, when residents of Kerala, a state in southwestern India, started seeing scarlet rain in some areas.
          “Almost the entire state, except for two northern districts, have reported these unusual rains over the past week,” the BBC online reported on July 30. “Experts said the most likely reason was the presence of dust in the atmosphere which colours the water.”

The explanation didn’t satisfy everyone.

The rain “is eluding explanations as the days go by,” the newspaper Indian Express reported online a week later. The article said the Centre for Earth Science Studies, based in Thiruvananthapuram, India, had discarded an initial hypothesis that a streaking meteor triggered the rain, in favor of the view that the particles were spores from a fungus. But “the exact species is yet to be identified. [And] how such a large quantity of spores could appear over a small region is as yet unknown,” the paper quoted center director M. Baba as saying. Baba didn’t return an email from World Science this week.
The red rain continued to appear sporadically for about two months, though most of it fell in the first 10 days, Louis and Kumar wrote. The “striking red colouration” turned out to come from microscopic, mixed-in red particles, they added, which had “no similarity with usual desert dust.”
At least 50,000 kg (55 tons) of the particles have fallen in all, they estimated. “An analysis of this strange phenomenon further shows that the conventional atmospheric transport processes like dust storms etc. cannot explain” it.
            “The red particles were uniformly dispersed in the rainwater,” they wrote. “When the red rainwater was collected and kept for several hours in a vessel, the suspended particles have a tendency to settle to the bottom.”

“The red rain occurred in many places during a continuing normal rain,” the paper continued. “It was reported from a few places that people on the streets found their cloths stained by red raindrops. In a few places the concentration of particles was so great that the rainwater appeared almost like blood.”
The precipitation, the researchers added, had a “highly localized appearance. It usually occur[ed] over an area of less than a square kilometer to a few square kilometers. Many times it had a sharp boundary, which means while it was raining strongly red at a place a few meters away there were no red rain.” A typical red rain lasted from a few minutes to less than about 20 minutes, they added. The scientists compiled charts of where and when the showers occurred based on local newspaper reports.
The particles look like one-celled organisms and are about 4 to 10 thousandths of a millimeter wide, the researchers wrote, somewhat larger than typical bacteria.
          “Under low magnification the particles look like smooth, red coloured glass beads. Under high magnifications (1000x) their differences in size and shape can be seen,” they wrote.  “Shapes vary from spherical to ellipsoid and slightly elongated… These cell-like particles have a thick and coloured cell envelope, which can be well identified under the microscope.” A few had broken cell envelopes, they added.

The particles seem to lack a nucleus, the core DNA-containing compartment that animal and plant cells have, the researchers wrote. Chemical tests indicated they also lacked DNA, the gene-carrying molecule that most types of cells contain. Nonetheless, Louis and Kumar wrote that the particles show “fine-structured membranes” under magnification, like normal cells.  The outer envelope seems to contain an “inner capsule,” they added, which in some places “appears to be detached from the outer wall to form an empty region inside the cell. Further, there appears to be a faintly visible mucus layer present on the outer side of the cell.”
         “One characteristic feature is the inward depression of the spherical surface to form cup like structures giving a squeezed appearance,” which varies among particles, they added. “The major constituents of the red particles are carbon and oxygen,” they wrote. Carbon is the key component of life on Earth. “Silicon is most prominent among the minor constituents” of the particles, Louis and Kumar added; other elements found were iron, sodium, aluminum and chlorine.
        “The red rain started in the State during a period of normal rain, which indicate that the red particles are not something which accumulated in the atmosphere during a dry period and washed down on a first rain,” the pair wrote.
        “Vessels kept in open space also collected red rain. Thus it is not something that is washed out from rooftops or tree leaves. Considering the huge quantity of red particles fallen over a wide geographic area, it is impossible to imagine that these are some pollen or fungal spores which have originated from trees,” they added. The nature of the red particles rules out the possibility that these are dust particles from a distant desert source,” they wrote, and such particles “are not found in Kerala or nearby place.”
One easy assumption is that they “got airlifted from a distant source on Earth by some wind system,” they added, but this leaves several puzzles.
“One characteristic of each red rain case is its highly localized appearance. If particles originate from distant desert source then why [was] there were no mixing and thinning out of the particle collection during transport”? they wrote. “It is possible to explain this by assuming the meteoric origin of the red particles. The red rain phenomenon first started in Kerala after a meteor airburst event, which occurred on 25th July 2001 near Changanacherry in [the] Kottayam district. This meteor airburst is evidenced by the sonic boom experienced by several people during early morning of that day.
         “The first case of red rain occurred in this area few hours after the airburst... This points to a possible link between the meteor and red rain. If particle clouds are created in the atmosphere by the fragmentation and disintegration of a special kind of fragile cometary meteor that presumably contain[s] a dense collection of red particles, then clouds of such particles can mix with the rain clouds to cause red rain,” they wrote.
The pair proposed that while approaching Earth at low angle, the meteor traveled southeast above Kerala with a final airburst above the Kottayam district. “During its travel in the atmosphere it must have released several small fragments, which caused the deposition of cell clusters in the atmosphere.”

Alive or dead, the particles have some staying power, if the paper is correct. “Even after storage in the original rainwater at room temperature without any preservative for about four years, no decay or discolouration of the particles could be found.”