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The Origins of Megacryometeors: Troposphere or Extraterrestrial?

Authors:

Abstract

Ice meteors have been reported falling form the skies since the 19th century. The consensus of opinion is they are not meteors at all, but formed under unusual atmospheric conditions effecting the troposphere. Some scientists believe, however, that ice meteors, i.e. Megacryometeors, have an extraterrestrial origin. A review of the literature and arguments pro and con regarding the possible origins of megacryometeors is presented, as well as new data on a ice meteor subjected to electron microscopic, isotope ratio and tritium analysis. The results favor an extraterrestrial origin. Although admittedly speculative, based on this data and a review of the literature, the authors theorize this particular megacryometeor may have originated from Saturn's E ring, or from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus.
Cosmology, 2015, Vol. 19. 70-86.
Cosmology.com, 2015
Copyright © 2015 - Cosmology.com, Cosmology Science Publishers
The Origins of Megacryometeors:
Troposphere or Extraterrestrial?
Duane P Snyder1, Rhawn Joseph2
1Meterological Society, South Haven, Michigan, USA
2Cosmology.com
Abstract
Ice meteors have been reported falling form the skies since
the 19th century. The consensus of opinion is they are not
meteors at all, but formed under unusual atmospheric conditions
eecting the troposphere. Some scientists believe, however, that
ice meteors, i.e. Megacryometeors, have an extraterrestrial
origin. A review of the literature and arguments pro and con
regarding the possible origins of megacryometeors is presented,
as well as new data on a ice meteor discovered by this author
and subjected to electron microscopic, isotope ratio and tritium
analysis. The results favor an extraterrestrial origin. Although
admittedly speculative, based on this data and a review of the
literature, this author theorizes this particular megacryometeor
may have originated from Saturn's E ring, or from the surface of
Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
Keywords: Megacryometeors, Troposphere, Extraterrestrial,
Enceladus, Ice Meteorite, Saturn's E ring.
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I. Introduction. !
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It is not uncommon for large chunks of ice to fall to Earth, even during cloudless
days and this has led to extensive debate as to their origin (Beech, 2006;
Bobrowsky & Rickman, 2007; Martinez-Frias, et al., 2006, 2007; Orellana, et al.
2008). Some believe they originate in space and should be referred to as"
megacryometeors, whereas yet others argue they form under unusual
atmospheric conditions as they share several isotopic, hydro-chemical and"
textural similarities to large hailstones (Bobrowsky & Rickman, 2007; Deshpande
et al, 2013; Martinez-Frias, et al., 2005, 2007; Rull et al. 2010). There have been
reports and speculation that megacryometeors are formed in the troposphere,
the lowest layer of the atmosphere, based on their chemical and molecular
composition which in some cases is similar to that of rainwater derived from the
troposphere" (Deshpande et al, 2013; Martinez-Frias, et al., 2005, 2007; Rull et
al. 2010). The theory of an origin within the Troposphere, however, seems
unlikely because there would be significant heating due to an increase in CO2
concentration (Fu et al. 2011).!
!
That they may have broken o after water accumulated on an airplane fuselage,
or were produced from airplane toilet leakage is not probable as
megacryometeors have been observed and recorded in the mid 1800s, long
before the invention of airplanes, and as the chunks of ice that occasionally leak
from airliner toilets are distinctly blue due to the disinfectant used (Beech, 2006;
Bobrowsky & Rickman, 2007)." !
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Yet another possibility is that changing atmospheric conditions, and local
atmospheric anomalies secondary to climate change and global warming may
be responsible, as there have been claims that the number of megacryometeors
falling from the sky has increased over the last several decades (Deshpande et
al, 2013). If correct, then megacryometeors could pose a significant threat to
aviation and people and buildings on the ground." On the other hand, the
proliferation of reports may be due to increased access to the media, such that,
its not the number of meteors which has increased but the number of people
reporting them.!
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The favored explanation is that megacryometeors form in the troposphere.
However, if megacryometeors formed in space, the question then arises as to
how they formed or where did they come from. One possibility is they broke o
from ice-comets and fell to Earth. Beech (2006) however, argues that there are
two main factors which rule out the likelihood that megacryometeors originated
from comets. “Firstly the velocity restriction requires that the cometary
meteoroids must encounter the Earth with very low velocities – certainly less
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than 12 – 13 km/s. No currently known cometary meteoroid stream, therefore,
can produce ice-meteorites. This eectively removes from consideration what
might otherwise be considered a good source of material for producing ice-
meteorites. Indeed, for an ice-meteoroid belonging to a typical short-period
cometary stream, initial sizes in excess of 20 to 50-m across are required to
produce an ice-meteorite, and no such objects have been observed.”!
!
""" Yet another possibility is they originated from other watery planets and were
ejected into space, along with oceans of water, following asteroid impact. It
could be said that Beech’s argument about comets could apply to other worlds.
However, there is no evidence which could disprove the possibility that
megacryometeors came from other planets. !
!
""" Thus, the question of their origin must still be addressed as nobody really
knows where these ice fragments came from. In March of 2000, this author was
provided a unique opportunity to investigate the origins problem, when he
discovered large chucks and a substantial amount of smashed ice near his
residence on a clear, cloudless day. The ice was stratified ice, transitioning from
clear transparent to translucent to opaque ice. This is" indicative of laid down
layers of frozen precipitation. The directionally increasing density is suggestive
glacial ice. In many respects these chunks of ice resembled the remnants of a
megacryometeors; the origins of which, of course, were unknown. !
!
""" To answer this question as to their origins, and thus to provide more evidence
as to how megacryometeors are formed, this author immediately placed the
three largest chunks of ice in a freezer bag, wrapped them in cellophane, and
placed them in a freezer." In July of 2000, this author sent two vials of melt-water
from the suspected ice meteorite to Geochron Laboratories, Cambridge,
Massachusetts for stable isotope ratio and tritium analysis. Subsequently, high
tritium levels were detected, the most likely source being exposure to cosmic
radiation. Additional analysis does not support an argument that this ice was
formed in Earth’s atmosphere. Where did it come from? Although this one can
only speculate, this author believes one likely candidate may be from Enceladus,
one of Saturn’s moons.!
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""" 2. METHODS AND RESULTS!
""" This author sent two vials of melt-water of the suspected ice" meteorite to
Geochron Laboratories, Cambridge, Massachusetts for stable isotope ratio
analysis" and tritium analysis. The analysis indicates a Delta “D” (D/H) of -94,
and a Delta “O” (O18/ O16) of -13 (fig. 1), and a tritium level of 13.7 units (fig 2).
The high tritium level could be due to the exposure to cosmic radiation. This
data is indicative of meteoric precipitation at high altitude, or exposure to
cosmic radiation in space.!
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"" This author transported a oval shaped sphere, approximately 300 nm in
diameter to the Ecloe Polytechnique Surface Analysis Laboratory (LASM),
located at" the Universite de Montreal in Montreal, Canada. This sample was
bombarded with a pulsed liquid" metal ion source at energy of 25 KeV. Both
polarities, positive and negative, were registered." The most intense element is
the Na (sodium) in positive and CL (chlorine) in negative (figures 1,2). This
indicates the presence of sodium chloride salt. Also noticeable is the presence
of" Ca, K, Si, AL and known and unknown aluminum hydroxides. !
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Figure 1. Positive TOF-SIMS analysis of oval sphere.!
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Figure 2. Negative TOF-SIMS analysis of oval sphere.!
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Figure 3.!
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Spectrum 1 Date:4/8/2015 10:50:08 AM HV:200.0kV Puls th.:1.19kcps
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Spectrum 2 Date:4/8/2015 10:50:43 AM HV:200.0kV Puls th.:1.21kcps
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Spectrum 3 Date:4/8/2015 10:51:28 AM HV:200.0kV Puls th.:1.31kcps
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Spectrum 15 Date:4/8/2015 12:22:45 PM HV:200.0kV Puls th.:0.51kcps
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Spectrum 19 Date:4/8/2015 12:35:17 PM HV:200.0kV Puls th.:0.25kcps
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Spectrum 21 Date:4/8/2015 12:45:46 PM HV:200.0kV Puls th.:0.46kcps
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Spectrum 23 Date:4/8/2015 12:46:59 PM HV:200.0kV Puls th.:0.23kcps
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Melt-water from the suspected ice meteorite, was analyzed by the labs of EAG, l
Raleigh, North Carolina." The melt-water was sonicated for 10 minutes then
transferred to a copper mesh TEM grid. Imaging using STEM (Hitachi HD2700
scanning transmission electron microscope) provided various magnifications in
atomic number contrast mode (ZC) and transmitted electron mode (TE).
Chemical analysis was preformed with a Bruker Quantax EDS system. !
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" Mass spectra of 7 particles (figs. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) indicates high levels of
carbon, and Si and O as highly significant particle constituents, as well as
Sodium (Na) and" chlorine (CL), being possible salts. When the carbon and the
salts are" taken into account, the elemental composition of these particles are in
agreement with the" hydrothermal nano-silica (SiO2) particles found in the E ring
of Saturn. However, carbon was also the most abundant contaminate element
found in Saturn’s E ring by the Cassini’s CDA. When the carbon is taken into"
account, the elemental composition of the particles are in agreement with the
hydrothermal" nano-silica (SiO2) particles found in the E ring of Saturn. !
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"""" Mass spectra of a seventh particle, spectrum 21 (figure 8)," indicates" silicon
and oxygen as the two most abundant elements of this particle. However, it's
size is slightly larger than hydrothermal nano-silica. If extraterrestrial in origin,
the particle possibly grew larger due to Ostwald" ripening (Leir 1979) outside the
hydrothermal vent activity zone."" !
!
3. DISCUSSION!
""" The consensus of opinion holds that megacryometeors are large ice
conglomerations that are formed under unusual atmospheric conditions
(Martínez-Frías & Travis 2002). Megacryometeors are not big hailstones, ice from
aircraft or due to natural icing processes at high altitudes." It has been reported
that the number of megacryometeors falling from the sky has increased, due
perhaps to global warming and climate change (Deshpande, et al, 2013)." It is
true there have been reports that the mixing ratio of water vapour in the
stratosphere has increased by 20–50% since the 1960s (see Deshpande," et al,
2013, for review). Could excess water, and changes in the stratosphere and
related changes in stratospheric chemistry account for the formation of
Megacryometeors? Fact is, there is no evidence megacryometeors are formed in
the stratosphere. Moreover, it is a fact that ice chunks, weighing over tens of
kilograms (22 pounds), do fall fall to Earth and it seems highly unlikely such large
objects could develop in the stratosphere when there is no evidence that they
were formed in the stratosphere in the first place. In support of the climate
change model, there have been reports that the numbers of these ice falls has
enormously increased in the whole world. But this may be an artifact of
increased access to the media. More people report these incidents. Fact is,"
there are numerous documented references of falls of large blocks of ice in the
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1800s, when, of course, newspapers and other mass media outlets began to
proliferate. !
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Previous studies of megacryometeors have focused on their textures, cavities,
air bubbles," ice layering, and hydrochemistry and isotopic composition, all of
them evidencing a complex history of growth. In the present study, growth and
layering was also observed. Growth, however, requires a place to grow. Micro-
Raman spectroscopy of band profiles has indicated that this growth takes place
in a range of temperatures" (Ru et al, (2010); and this suggests that the place
where these megacryometeors must have been subject to a range of
temperatures over a significant duration of time. What is the likelihood a chunk
of ice would form, and remain in the upper atmosphere long enough to grow in
size to 20 or more pounds and become stratified as" part of the growth process
under a range of temperatures before falling to Earth? !
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""" Science is not a democracy, and consensus of opinion does not equal
established fact. The origin of megacryometeors is still unknown. This author
favors the possibility that these are ice meteors are formed either in space or
they are ejecta from stellar objects consisting of large amounts of water. Be they
formed in space or ejecta, these ice meteors would break apart and melt as they
enter Earth's atmosphere. Their origin, therefore, could include comets.
However, if from a water world, or a planet or moon with ample amounts of
water, then the moon Enceladus is one possible candidate.!
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4. SPECULATION: ENCELADUS AS AN ORGIN FOR ICE METEORS!
Enceladus, the six largest moon of Saturn has Cryovolcanic ice water vapor""" !
plumes" that replenish the E ring of Saturn with material. The plumes""" !
contain ice particles, salts, organic compounds, water vapor and nano-silica.
The gravitational return, to the surface of Enceladus, of some of the frozen
precipitation, salts, organic compounds, and dust particles will lay down a
glacial like ice surface."" !
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Recent research (Hsu et al. 2015) concludes that the dominant, if not the sole
constituent of most E""ring stream particles, are SiO2 (nano-silica). The paper
also suggested that the nano-silica particles with a radius of ~8 nm (~16 nm
dia.), observed by the Cassini mission Cosmic Dust Analyzer (DCA) (Srama et al.
2011) may have been formed over a period of months or years before being
ejected into E ring. This could suggest continuing hydrothermal activity within""" !
Enceladus. These nano-silica particles, initially embedded in icy grains, are
presumably emitted from Saturn's moon Enceladus’ subsurface waters. They
are released by sputter erosion of the icy grains while in Saturns' E ring. !
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Quantitative mass spectra analysis of Saturn’s E ring stream of particles
detected by the Cassini mission Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) (Srama et al.
2011), indicates a diameter"""Dmax = 12 to 18 nm for the largest observed
stream particles. This is in agreement with the"upper particle size limit
independently inferred by simulations (Rmax= 8 nm) (Hsu et al. 2011)."" !
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Therefore, for an analysis to be interpreted as supporting evidence to the
possibility that a suspected ice meteorite is from the E ring of Saturn or the
surface of Enceladus, the suspected ice meteorite must contain the right size
hydrothermal vent nano-silica. Should the ice meteorite"contain the right size
nano-silica, then it is possible that it is from the E ring of Saturn. Should be ice
be glacial"ice and contain the right size nano-silica, then it is possible that the
ice is from the surface of Saturn. !
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""" The plumes of icy particles and water vapor ejected from the south pole of
Enceladus have been shown to contain simple organic compounds (McKay et
al. 2008). Analysis of the composition of freshly ejected plume particles have
found that salt-rich ice particles dominate the total mass flux of" ejected
particles (Postberg et al. 2011). However, the salt-rich ice particles are depleted
in the population"escaping into Saturn’s E ring, due to sputter erosion. !
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Salts are found in the mass spectra of spectrums 1, 2, 3 (figs. 3, 4, 5) of the
particles found in the melt-water of this suspected ice meteorite. Sodium
chloride and known and unknown aluminum hydroxides were found in this ice.
The water in this ice is salt-water. Precipitation here""on Earth does not contain
salt due to the evaporation cycle of water here on earth."" !
""" !
Based on this evidence, this author believes that it is possible that this
suspected ice meteorite reported in this paper, is a genuine extraterrestrial ice
meteorite because the ice is frozen tritiated salt-water precipitation
containing"salts and hydrothermal nano-silica, the chemical footprints from the E
ring of Saturn."" !
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The stratigraphic evolution of the south pole Tiger Stripe surface of Enceladus
(Jaumann et al. 2008) is indicative of material being laid down in a glacial like
process. The suggested episodically active""tectonic events and the proposed
localized catastrophic overturn of the rigid ice surface (O’Neill & Nimmo 2010)"of
Enceladus, allows for the possibility of large bodies of ice to periodically be
ejected from Enceladus. The surface of Enceladus and the E ring of Saturn are
exposed to cosmic radiation"that creates tritium in the exposed water."" !
!
84
CONCLUSIONS"" !
The data from the analysis of the Pullman ice meteorite is compatible with the
possibility that this ice is a genuine ice meteorite. The data is compatible with
the possibility that this ice is of extraterrestrial origin. Where may it have been
formed? This author's favored interpretation, admittedly speculative, is that this
ice was formed on the surface of Enceladus and constitutes ejecta which
eventually fell to Earth. !
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REFERENCES!
!
Beech, M. (2006)," The Problem of Ice Meteorites," Meteorite Quarterly:
November 2006, 12(4), 17 – 19 !
!
Bobrowsky, P., Rickman, H. (2007). Comet/asteroid impacts and human society:
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!
Deshpande, R. D., et al, (2013) Isotopic studies of megacryometeors in western
India, Current Science 104, 6," 728-737!
!
Fu, Q. et al." (2011), On the warming in the tropical upper troposphere: Models
versus observations, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2011GL048101. !
!
Hsu, H.-W. et al. (2015). Ongoing Hydrothermal activities within Enceladus,"
Nature 519, 207-210.!
!
Hsu, H.-W. et al," (2011). “Stream particles as the Probe of the Dust-Plasma-
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Jaumann, R., Stephan, K., Hansen, G. B., Clark, R. N., Buratti, B, J., Brow, H., &
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derived from Cassini-VIMS measurements” Icarus 193, no. 2.!
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Ller, R.K. (1979) .The Chemistry of Silica, Wiley & Sons. !
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Martinez-FrÍas, J.; Delgado, A.; MillÁn, M.; Reyes, E.; Rull, F.; Travis, D.; Garcia,
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McKay, C. P., Porco, C.C., Altheide, T., Davis, W. L., & Kral, T. A. (2008). “The
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O’Neill, C., & Nimmo, F. (2010) “The role of episodic overturn in generating the
surface geology and heat flow on Enceladus.” Nature Geoscience, 3(2), 88-91.!
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Orellana, F et al. (2008). "Monitoring the fall of large atmospheric ice
conglomerations: a multianalytical approach to the study of the Mejorada del
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Postberg, F., Schmidt, J., Hiller, J., Kempf, S., & Srama, R. (2011). “A salt-water
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... It is highly like that ejected water, rock and soil may become comets or orbit the solar system as frozen rivers, lakes and ice-meteors (Beech, 2006;Martinez-Frias et al. 2006;Orellana et al.2008;Snyder & Joseph, 2015). Some of this ejected mass and frozen water would eventually fall back to the planet from which they were ejected (Beech, 2006;Martinez-Frias et al. 2006;Orellana et al. 2008). ...
... One example: according to the Monthly Weather Review, July 1894, large chunks and blocks of ice fell during the middle of summer from a "vast field of ice suspended in the atmosphere and suddenly broke into fragments" over Portland Oregon. Some of these masses of ice have been referred to as "ice meteorites" (Beech, 2006;Martinez-Frias et al. 2006;Snyder & Joseph, 2015). ...
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... In some cases it is possible to imagine e fanciful as it might seemmulticellular life-forms that were established on an icy cometary or planetary body to be transferred as frozen eggs, embryos or seeds (Tepfer and Leach, 2017) in large icy bolides that have been transported to the Earth in soft landings (Frank and Sigwarth, 2001;Snyder, 2015); certainly the terrestrial evidence for Earth's own pervasive Icy Biosphere is compelling and consistent with such a picture (Priscu and Christner, 2004;Fox, 2014;Christner et al., 2014). It is plausible that in the warmed and liquid subsurface interiors of the comets, or planetary moons such as Jupiter's Europa and Saturn's Enceladus (Hoover, 2011;Snyder, 2015) cellular reservoirs for viral replication would, by necessity, need to exist. ...
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We review the salient evidence consistent with or predicted by the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe (H- W) thesis of Cometary (Cosmic) Biology. Much of this physical and biological evidence is multifactorial. One particular focus are the recent studies which date the emergence of the complex retroviruses of vertebrate lines at or just before the Cambrian Explosion of ∼500 Ma. Such viruses are known to be plausibly associated with major evolutionary genomic processes. We believe this coincidence is not fortuitous but is consistent with a key prediction of H-W theory whereby major extinction-diversification evolutionary boundaries coincide with virus-bearing cometary-bolide bombardment events. A second focus is the remarkable evolution of intelligent complexity (Cephalopods) culminating in the emergence of the Octopus. A third focus concerns the micro-organism fossil evidence contained within meteorites as well as the detection in the upper atmosphere of apparent incoming life-bearing particles from space. In our view the totality of the multifactorial data and critical analyses assembled by Fred Hoyle, Chandra Wickramasinghe and their many colleagues since the 1960s leads to a very plausible conclusion - life may have been seeded here on Earth by life-bearing comets as soon as conditions on Earth allowed it to flourish (about or just before 4.1 Billion years ago); and living organisms such as space-resistant and space-hardy bacteria, viruses, more complex eukaryotic cells, fertilised ova and seeds have been continuously delivered ever since to Earth so being one important driver of further terrestrial evolution which has resulted in considerable genetic diversity and which has led to the emergence of mankind.
... The most crucial genes relevant to evolution of hominids, as indeed all species of plants and animals, seems likely in many instances to be of external origin, being transferred across the galaxy largely as information rich virions. In some cases it is possible to imagine -fanciful as it might seem -multicellular life-forms that were established on an icy cometary or planetary body to be transferred as frozen eggs, embryos or seeds (Tepfer and Leach, 2017) in large icy bolides that have been transported to the Earth in soft landings (Frank and Sigwarth, 2001;Snyder, 2015); certainly the terrestrial evidence for Earth's own pervasive Icy Biosphere is compelling and consistent with such a picture (Priscu and Christner, 2004;Fox, 2014;Christner et al., 2014). It is plausible that in the warmed and liquid subsurface interiors of the comets, or planetary moons such as Jupiter's Europa and Saturn's Enceladus (Hoover, 2011;Snyder, 2015) cellular reservoirs for viral replication would, by necessity, need to exist. ...
... In some cases it is possible to imagine -fanciful as it might seem -multicellular life-forms that were established on an icy cometary or planetary body to be transferred as frozen eggs, embryos or seeds (Tepfer and Leach, 2017) in large icy bolides that have been transported to the Earth in soft landings (Frank and Sigwarth, 2001;Snyder, 2015); certainly the terrestrial evidence for Earth's own pervasive Icy Biosphere is compelling and consistent with such a picture (Priscu and Christner, 2004;Fox, 2014;Christner et al., 2014). It is plausible that in the warmed and liquid subsurface interiors of the comets, or planetary moons such as Jupiter's Europa and Saturn's Enceladus (Hoover, 2011;Snyder, 2015) cellular reservoirs for viral replication would, by necessity, need to exist. ...
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We review the salient evidence consistent with or predicted by the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe (H- W) thesis of Cometary (Cosmic) Biology. Much of this physical and biological evidence is multifactorial. One particular focus are the recent studies which date the emergence of the complex retroviruses of vertebrate lines at or just before the Cambrian Explosion of ∼500 Ma. Such viruses are known to be plausibly associated with major evolutionary genomic processes. We believe this coincidence is not fortuitous but is consistent with a key prediction of H-W theory whereby major extinction-diversification evolutionary boundaries coincide with virus-bearing cometary-bolide bombardment events. A second focus is the remarkable evolution of intelligent complexity (Cephalopods) culminating in the emergence of the Octopus. A third focus concerns the micro-organism fossil evidence contained within meteorites as well as the detection in the upper atmosphere of apparent incoming life-bearing particles from space. In our view the totality of the multifactorial data and critical analyses assembled by Fred Hoyle, Chandra Wickramasinghe and their many colleagues since the 1960s leads to a very plausible conclusion - life may have been seeded here on Earth by life-bearing comets as soon as conditions on Earth allowed it to flourish (about or just before 4.1 Billion years ago); and living organisms such as space-resistant and space-hardy bacteria, viruses, more complex eukaryotic cells, fertilised ova and seeds have been continuously delivered ever since to Earth so being one important driver of further terrestrial evolution which has resulted in considerable genetic diversity and which has led to the emergence of mankind.
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Detection of sodium-salt-rich ice grains emitted from the plume of the Saturnian moon Enceladus suggests that the grains formed as frozen droplets from a liquid water reservoir that is, or has been, in contact with rock. Gravitational field measurements suggest a regional south polar subsurface ocean of about 10 kilometres thickness located beneath an ice crust 30 to 40 kilometres thick. These findings imply rock-water interactions in regions surrounding the core of Enceladus. The resulting chemical 'footprints' are expected to be preserved in the liquid and subsequently transported upwards to the near-surface plume sources, where they eventually would be ejected and could be measured by a spacecraft. Here we report an analysis of silicon-rich, nanometre-sized dust particles (so-called stream particles) that stand out from the water-ice-dominated objects characteristic of Saturn. We interpret these grains as nanometre-sized SiO2 (silica) particles, initially embedded in icy grains emitted from Enceladus' subsurface waters and released by sputter erosion in Saturn's E ring. The composition and the limited size range (2 to 8 nanometres in radius) of stream particles indicate ongoing high-temperature (>90 °C) hydrothermal reactions associated with global-scale geothermal activity that quickly transports hydrothermal products from the ocean floor at a depth of at least 40 kilometres up to the plume of Enceladus.
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Specific studies about the stable isotope composition (18O/16O and D/H) of atmospheric icy conglomerations are still scarce. The present work offers, for the first time, a very detailed analysis of oxygen and hydrogen isotopic signatures of unusually large ice conglomerations, or “megacryometeors”, that fell to the ground in Spain during January 2000. The hydrochemical analysis is based on the bulk isotopic composition and systematic selective sampling (deuterium isotopic mapping) of eleven selected specimens. δ18O and δD (V-SMOW) of all samples fall into the Meteoric Water Line matching well with typical tropospheric values. The distribution of the samples on Craig's line suggests either a variation in condensation temperature and/or different residual fractions of water vapour (Rayleigh processes). Three of the largest megacryometeors exhibited unequivocally distinctive negative values (δ18O = −17.2%0 and δD = −127 %0 V-SMOW), (δ18O = −15.6%0 and δD = −112%0 V-SMOW) and (δ18O = −14.4%0 and δD = −100%0 V-SMOW), suggesting an atmospheric origin typical of the upper troposphere. Theoretical calculations indicate that the vertical trajectory of growth was lower than 3.2 km. During the period in which the fall of megacryometeors occurred, anomalous atmospheric conditions were observed to exist: a substantial lowering of the tropopause with a deep layer of saturated air below, ozone depression and strong wind shear. Moreover, these large ice conglomerations occurred during non-thunderstorm conditions, suggesting an alternative process of ice growth was responsible for their formation.
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For the first time, micro-Raman spectroscopy has been applied to the structural study of four megacryometeors (extremely large atmospheric ice conglomerations that fall in general under blue-sky atmospheric conditions) that fell in Spain. The Raman spectra taken on the megacryometeor cores have been compared with those obtained from an in situ and online study performed on the crystallization process of water in the laboratory. A detailed comparison of the band profiles obtained made it possible to place the formation of the megacryometeors within a particular range of temperatures (-10 to -20 degrees C), which in turn can be related with the altitude of formation in the atmosphere. These results have also been compared with isotope concentrations (delta(18)O and deltaD) previously obtained in these cores. The two sets of results show a close correlation.
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The discovery of a plume of water vapour and ice particles emerging from warm fractures ('tiger stripes') in Saturn's small, icy moon Enceladus(1-6) raised the question of whether the plume emerges from a subsurface liquid source(6-8) or from the decomposition of ice(9-12). Previous compositional analyses of particles injected by the plume into Saturn's diffuse E ring have already indicated the presence of liquid water(8), but the mechanisms driving the plume emission are still debated(13). Here we report an analysis of the composition of freshly ejected particles close to the sources. Salt-rich ice particles are found to dominate the total mass flux of ejected solids (more than 99 per cent) but they are depleted in the population escaping into Saturn's E ring. Ice grains containing organic compounds are found to be more abundant in dense parts of the plume. Whereas previous Cassini observations were compatible with a variety of plume formation mechanisms, these data eliminate or severely constrain non-liquid models and strongly imply that a salt-water reservoir with a large evaporating surface(7,8) provides nearly all of the matter in the plume.
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Four unusually large ice-stones (megacryometeors) weighing several kilograms fell in western India during October-November 2010. Samples were retrieved from three fall events. To study the origin and formation of these megacryometeors, δ18O, δD, chemical composition and γ-activity were measured. The range of δ18O-δD is similar to the local meteoric water, suggesting origin from local atmospheric water vapour. The relative humidity at ~4 km altitude was higher during a few days before and after the fall. No γ- activity from cosmogenic radionuclides such as 26Al could be detected in the inherent dust. These studies indicate terrestrial origin of these megacryometeors.
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We analyze the dynamics and composition of Saturnian stream particles measured by the Cosmic Dust Analyser (CDA) onboard the Cassini spacecraft. To reconstruct the dynamical properties of Saturnian stream particles, we adopt a backward tracing method with in situ solar wind measurements to filter out the influence of the interplanetary magnetic field. Our results show that stream particles from Saturn have sizes ranging from 2 to 8 nm (radius) with ejection velocities between 50 and 200 kms-1. Moreover, the derived “ejection region” of stream particles in the outer part of Saturn's E ring is indicative of the dust charging condition profile in the planet's magnetosphere. By using the Cassini magnetospheric plasma measurements as input, our ejection model considers stochastic charging and well reproduces the dynamical properties of stream particles derived from backward simulations. An updated analysis of CDA stream-particle mass spectra confirms that the silicateous material is the most probable composition of Saturnian stream particles, in contrast to E ring particles whose composition is dominated by water ice. This compositional discrepancy can be reproduced by our model if the different sputter efficiencies of silicateous material and water ice are considered. We suggest that silicateous impurities released from icy grains at the outer E ring are the most probable source of Saturnian stream particles. Finally, we discuss the role of dust particles as a mobile neutral reservoir in Saturn's magnetosphere which may be responsible for certain features in the Cassini O and O2+ measurements.
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The Saturnian satellite Enceladus is enigmatic in that its geologically active south polar region shows high heat flows1 and geysers 2 not seen elsewhere on the satellite at present; its heavily deformed surface shows an episodic age distribution2; and the current observed heat loss exceeds the long-term tidal equilibrium heat production by a factor of at least 3.5 (ref.3). These observations, which are not explained by existing convection models for Enceladus, suggest episodically active tectonism4,5. Here we present scaled numerical convection models of Enceladuss ice mantle, and show that all three observations are explained if convection is in a regime that involves occasional catastrophic overturns lasting about 10 million years, during which portions of the rigid ice lid are recycled into the interior, causing transiently enhanced heat loss. Our models show that episodic partial lid recycling occurs for plausible lid strengths and Enceladuss estimated supply of tidal energy. The localized nature of such overturn episodes, their periodicity of 0.1-1 billion years and an anomalous heat flow during these episodes are consistent with Enceladuss geology and heat supply. We propose that localized catastrophic overturn events may also explain the episodic partial resurfacing that has been inferred for other satellites, such as Ganymede, Rhea and Miranda.