The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Isro spies life above earth

Nagpur, Oct. 28 (PTI): Indian scientists have found traces of extra-terrestrial microbial life in samples collected from space, researcher Jayant Narlikar has claimed.

Narlikar, who led a team of scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation, said micro-organisms resembling coccus, fungal and rod-like bacillus were discovered in samples collected from 25 to 41 km above the earth’s surface.

Biologists are now trying to verify the origin of the micro-organisms, said Narlikar, chairman of the Inter-university Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune.

Delivering a lecture on “search for extra-terrestrial life” yesterday, Narlikar said the findings were made only a few weeks ago. The chance of microbial life coming from debris of comets and other celestial objects could not be ruled out, he said.

“Whatever may be the source of life, if biologists confirm the results, it will prove that extra-terrestrial life does exist. It will open a new line of challenge for the scientific community,” Narlikar said.

Isro scientists conducted the experiment using a cryosampler, he said, adding that this was only the second experiment of its kind in the world.

The US had conducted a similar study where some evidences of life were found but chances of micro-organisms from earth contaminating the samples could not be ruled out during that experiment, Narlikar said.

He said during the experiment by his team, such contamination was totally ruled out as the balloon that carried the sterilised steel probes for the experiment did not move in a manner that could carry micro-organisms from earth.

The probe collected the samples using telecommands and they were later cooled to liquid neon temperatures, Narlikar said.

Samples brought by the balloon were analysed using both catonic and anonic dyes. Micro-organisms were multiplied in potato-dextrose agarmedium and were identified using 16s RNA analysis, he added.

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