A mysterious titanium orb has been discovered and appears to contain an as yet unidentified biological 'ooze', a scientist has claimed.
While the contents of the microscopic metal ball are unclear, an expert speaking to the Express has made headlines for claiming that it could contain alien genetic material.
This has led the scientists who made the discovery to theorise that it could be an alien 'seed' sent to Earth either to start life or -- rather more worryingly -- as a biological weapon.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is convinced.
Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, the director of the Buckingham Center for Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham, and Prof Milton Wainwright at the University of Sheffield described their new find in the Journal of Cosmology, which in the past has been criticised for publishing fringe theories.
Wainwright et al said they made the discovery during tests with atmospheric research balloons. (Wainwright has made similar claims before, after reporting in 2013 that one of his balloons returned to Earth coated in alien algae.)
The team said their balloon's sampler was hit by a microscopic particle with such force that it left an (also small) crater. This claim has been repeated more or less straightforwardly by the Mail and the Express.
Once back on Earth, the scientists say they were astonished to find that the sphere appeared to be made from a mix of titanium and vanadium -- and contained a "gooey biological material oozing from its centre".
Speaking to the Express, Professor Wainwright said that the discovery is an indicator that we are not alone in the universe, though he admits hard admissible evidence is elusive.
“We were stunned when X-ray analysis showed that the sphere is made up mainly of titanium, with a trace of vanadium. One theory is it was sent to Earth by some unknown civilisation in order to continue seeding the planet with life."
Unless of course we can find details of the civilisation that is supposed to have sent it in this respect it is probably an unprovable theory.”
Unsurprisingly, the lack of outcry from the science world indicates that this finding is a little more 'fringe' than it might first appear. While it's true that finding organic material high in the atmosphere is unusual and to an extent unexplained, there is no clear evidence that anything found up there is alien in origin.