Life Is Found on Star Nine Billion Light Years Away; COSMOLOGY: `Exciting Discovery'

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Byline: CERI JONES

NEW evidence of life elsewhere in the universe has been discovered by astronomers.

A team led by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe from Cardiff University has found evidence of bacteria in a far-distant galaxy.

The findings support the increasingly accepted theory put forward by Professor Wickramasinghe and the late Sir Fred Hoyle that life is common throughout the universe and came from outer space through cometary material.

The latest findings were presented by Profesor Wickramasinghe in one of the keynote papers at an astrobiology conference in Hawaii organised by the International Society for Optical Engineering. The conference, which focused on the possibility of life on Mars, also heard from microbiologist Dr Milton Wainright, of Sheffield University, who has successfully cultured microbes retrieved last year from cosmic dust in the earth's upper atmosphere.

Professor Wickramasinghe, who has just returned from Hawaii, confirmed yesterday that his team had found ``unequivocal signs of life announcing itself'' at a great distance and at great antiquity in the time of the history of the universe.

``We used the latest astronomical data of a galaxy which showed the signs of bacteria at a great distance and therefore very much back in the past,'' he said.

``It was decisive evidence that there was life nine billion years ago.

``It's a really exciting discovery, which ties in with the idea worked on by myself and the late Fred Hoyle on the cosmic nature of life.

``All of the high forms of life on earth started with micro-organisms and evolved. The path of life on another planet would probably follow the same trend, leading to intelligence and then life which probes the universe.''

The team led by Professor Wickramasinghe also included his daughter Janaki Wickramasinghe from the University of Bath, Dr J V Narlikar from the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in India, and Dr Milton Wainright from the University of Sheffield. …