[meteorite-list] Fossils Found In Murchison Meteorite

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:37:35 2004
Message-ID: <200012181653.IAA06749_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Fossils found in Victorian meteor
Herald Sun (Australia)
December 18, 2000

ALIEN life has been found in a meteorite that plummeted to Victoria,
according to a top NASA scientist.

The tiny fossilised organisms were found inside the meteorite that fell on
Murchison, 30km south of Shepparton, 31 years ago.

The possible evidence of extraterrestrial life in Victoria has just been
discovered because of new technology.

Scientists believe the 4.6 billion-year-old meteorite may have broken from a
comet or asteroid 800,000 years ago, before plunging into the central
Victorian town.

The discovery could give clues to the origin of life in the solar system.

It follows the 1996 worldwide announcement of microfossils in a Mars

Professor Richard Hoover, head of NASA's astrobiology unit at the Marshall
Space Flight Centre in the US, told the Herald Sun he had strong evidence of
bacterial cells.

Prof. Hoover said they looked very similar to those found in Antarctica,
other extreme Earth environments and other rare meteorites.

The Museum of Victoria has donated eight more samples of the Murchison
meteorite to NASA for research.

NASA is studying about six meteorites Prof. Hoover believes also hold

He showed an audience at Melbourne University's Summer School of Science
photographs of structures he says are organisms "indigenous" to the

Prof. Hoover said the remarkable similarities between Earth micro-organisms
and the alien forms could be because:

PRIMITIVE life began somewhere else in the solar system and this planet was
seeded by a comet or asteroid.

LIFE began on Earth but a huge impact early on sent up fragments of ice and
sedimentary rock into space where it was collected by comets.

The meteorite rained down in pieces over the Victorian town of Murchison
about 10.58 on a Sunday morning, September 18, 1969.

Not all the findings have been published in a scientific journal, apart from
a paper in the Journal of Palaentology.

Murchison resident for 28 years, Anne Finlay said she was excited evidence
of alien life may have been found in the meteorite.

Mrs Finlay, a member of the local historical society, said the meteorite was
a vital part of the town's history.

"It's hard to believe that when you stand outside and look at the universe
at night that we are the only planet that is occupied," Mrs Finlay said.

Dr Hoover said his claim was controversial and many scientists would

He said electron microscope pictures of structures inside the Murchison
meteorite were similar to Earth extremophiles.

Extremophiles are micro-organisms that live in extreme environments such as
deep ice under Antarctica, hot geysers, hydrothermal vents, and even spent
nuclear fuel rods.

Prof. Hoover has ruled out contamination despite fungus being found on the
outer surface of the sample.

He said the Murchison meteorite was quickly picked up in chunks by
scientists and placed in a curated collection to reduce contamination.

"I have found doing the research a whole sweep of large structures that I am
convinced are biological structures within carbonaceous chondrites," he

Carbonaceous chondrites are meteorites with a lot of carbon in them.

"There is a whole sweep of very, very incredible microfossils in Murchison,"
he said.

"There is, in my opinion, strong evidence of biogenecity in meteorite cores.
We have evidence of cell walls, things that look like cyanobacteria and
purple sulphur bacteria," Dr Hoover said.

"We see evidence of structures similar to organisms that live in

The astrobiologist left Melbourne yesterday for home, carrying with him
eight more samples of the meteorite donated by the Museum of Victoria in
sealed vials.
Received on Mon 18 Dec 2000 11:53:11 AM PST

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