A Search for Evidence of
Interplanetary and Atmospheric
Microbial Delivery Systems
Presented at the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting
Installed as a web page on 16 October 2002.
6-11 October 2002 in Birmingham, Alabama
One figure was corrected on 08 Sep 2007.
An erroneous statement about the delays between Venus inferior conjunctions
with earth and the onsets of rainwater borne bacterial invasions at
Lockyer Observatory was corrected on 13 May 2008.
(Links to original webpages will be given at the beginnings of sections
that have been extracted and tailored for this presentation.)
In her book on the 1918 influenza(1) Gina Kolata calls attention to
the often repeated phenomenon of how influenza epidemics can move
quickly through a country, "hopscotching over some towns while felling
others." She reports that "After an influenza pandemic of 1789, a
young American doctor named Robert Johnson puzzled over how the
infection could spread so far and wide, and so quickly" Dr. Johnson
had discussed the rapid outbreaks in Great Britain and on ships at sea.
Kolata reports that the 1918 flu's mortality rates peaked in Boston
and Bombay in the same week, but New York, just a few hours from Boston,
had its peak three weeks later" Kolata reports that Johnson finally
decided that "influenza must arise from some sort of changes in the
atmosphere but that, once it got started, it could spread from person
to person."(Ref. 1, pp. 62-64)
In 1950, amongst his other breaches of scientific protocol, Immanuel
Velikovsky claimed that ancient texts provided evidence that various
life forms, including some insects, exist in the atmosphere of Venus,
and that in about 1450 BC some of those life forms were transported
alive to Earth in the (then) comet-like tail of Venus.(2)
In 1953 Sir Fred Hoyle is reported to have informed Velikovsky that
"his work was not properly scientific." Even so, Hoyle eventually came
to champion the idea that pathogenic bacteria and viruses are brought
to Earth by comet tails and meteor streams.(3) He and his colleague
Chandra Wickrasminghe found evidence that the severity of influenza
epidemics seems to be related to sunspot activity.
In 2000 a research team lead by another long-time colleague of Hoyle,
Jalent Narlikar, reported (to the SPIE) what they consider unambiguous
evidence of the presence of clumps of living cells [from space] in air
samples from as high as 41 kilometers above the Earth's surface.(4)
But are the 2000 findings the "first evidence" of live drop-ins?
There is an earlier report on what was speculated to have been a
"dropping-in on Earth" of alien bacteria which occurred during the middle
part of the twentieth century. The report was published in 1963 by
Donald Barber, who had just retired
as Director of the Norman Lockyer
Observatory at Sidmouth England. His article(5) documents a series of
nine "unidentifiable" rain-water borne bacterial invasions which occurred
at the Lockyer observatory between 1936 and 1961. Based on the bacteria's
phenomenally rapid liquefaction property (of astronomical photographic
plate emulsions), its toleration to highly toxic silver halide salts, and
the unique correlation of their arrival times with certain "space weather
related" events, Barber came to speculate that the bacteria were of
This presentation gives highlights of Barber's findings and uses them as a
springboard to investigate another set of potentially exobiological visitors.
In Barber's article he stated, "An American suggestion that the virus
responsible for endemic influenza emanated from the planet Venus, led
to a fresh examination of the 1937/1948 Sidmouth data, and also to a
search among the large collection of spectrograms obtained at Sidmouth
prior to 1937 for earlier evidence of bacterial attack. As a result of
the latter, two earlier outbreaks--one probable event in 1930, and a
second well-determined occasion in 1932--were discovered."
It was found that the onsets of six confirmed Lockyer major microbial
invasions occurred, on average, 55 days following inferior conjunctions of
Venus, when accompanied by strong geomagnetic storms.* (The shortest interval
between conjunction and outbreak was 35 days and the longest was 67 days.)
Actually the delays summarized by Barber pertained to the time between the
geomagnetic storms, which occurred timewise closely to the conjunctions, and
the onsets of the bacterial invasions.
[Added 13 May 2008.]