Article

Astrophysics and Space Science

, Volume 285, Issue 2, pp 555-562

First online:

A Balloon Experiment to detect Microorganisms in the Outer Space

  • J.V. NarlikarAffiliated withInter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Post Bag 4
  • , D. LloydAffiliated withCardiff School of Biological Sciences, Cardiff University
  • , N.C. WickramasingheAffiliated withCardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Cardiff University, 2 North Road
  • , M.J. HarrisAffiliated withCardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Cardiff University, 2 North Road
  • , M.P. TurnerAffiliated withCardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Cardiff University, 2 North Road
  • , S. Al-MuftiAffiliated withCardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Cardiff University, 2 North Road
  • , M.K. WallisAffiliated withCardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Cardiff University, 2 North Road
  • , M. WainwrightAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield
  • , P. RajaratnamAffiliated withIndian Space Research Organization, Antariksh Bhavan
    • , S. ShivajiAffiliated withCentre for Cellular and Molecular Biology
    • , G.S.N. ReddyAffiliated withCentre for Cellular and Molecular Biology
    • , S. RamaduraiAffiliated withTata Institute of Fundamental Research
    • , F. HoyleAffiliated withCardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Cardiff University, 2 North Road

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Abstract

The results of biological studies of a cryosampler flown with a balloon, in which air samples were collected at altitudes ranging from 20 to 41 km, well above the Tropopause over Hyderabad, are described. In the analysis carried out in Cardiff, voltage-sensitive dyes that could detect the presence of viable cells were used on these air-samples. Clumps of viable cells were found to be present in samples collected at all the altitudes. The images obtained from electron microscopy are consistent with the above finding. Reference is also made to another paper presented at this conference describing the identification of bacterial species in the sample carried out in Sheffield. Counter arguments are discussed against the criticism that the detected cells and microorganisms (in the samples collected above the local tropopause at 16 km) are due to terrestrial contamination.