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A Galactic Red Rain is Gonna Fall…

Remember that rain of ‘blood’ in India about a decade ago? Earlier this week, a rather fascinating paper was posted at regarding the ‘red rain of Kerala’: “Growth and replication of red rain cells at 121°C and their red fluorescence“. One of the authors is Chandra Wickramasinghe, well known for his work with Sir Fred Hoyle in developing the theory of panspermia (which asserts that life exists throughout the Universe, and spreads between planetary bodies – see this documentary for a detailed look at it).

The first interesting thing noted by the paper is that examination of biological material found in the red rain gave a surprising result: the cells not only survived, but grew, at a temperature of 121°C. As the researchers note, most forms of life on Earth “are adapted to growth within the temperature range, 10-45°C, with only ‘extremophiles’ – such as bacteria found near hydrothermal vents – being able to survive temperatures above 100°C:

We have shown that the red cells found in the Red Rain (which fell on Kerala, India, in 2001) survive and grow after incubation for periods of up to two hours at 121°C . Under these conditions daughter cells appear within the original mother cells and the number of cells in the samples increases with length of exposure to 121°C. No such increase in cells occurs at room temperature, suggesting that the increase in daughter cells is brought about by exposure of the Red Rain cells to high temperatures. This is an independent confirmation of results reported earlier by two of the present authors, claiming that the cells can replicate under high pressure at temperatures up to 300°C.

Considering the possibility that such extremophiles may have originated in space, the paper goes on to note a second interesting point which could suggest an extraterrestrial origin:

The fluorescence behaviour of the red cells is shown to be in remarkable correspondence with the extended red emission observed in the Red Rectangle planetary nebula and other galactic and extragalactic dust clouds, suggesting, though not proving an extraterrestrial origin.

It’s heady stuff, but is it likely to be correct? My skepticism is based on the fact that similar falls of coloured rain have been reported in the area previously – if it’s a localised phenomenon, it seems likely its origin would be too (though not necessarily so). Candidates include spores from algae, dust blown across from the deserts of Arabia, and volcanic ejections (which could sit well with the extremophile findings). However, researchers claim that all of the possible explanations suggested thus far have faults (such as volcanic and dust particles not being found in the red rain), so at this point the case continues to remain unsolved.

It certainly offers some great storylines for SF-horror writers though!

    1. quick look
      I’m not a biologist, but I read the paper anyway 🙂

      That’s a good question, what makes them red, and in particular, is it hemoglobin or something else.

      The article doesn’t say what it is. They have some spectrum diagrams, and those don’t look like some hemoglobin spectrum diagrams I found in another quick search.

      But since I’m not a biologist, that doesn’t mean all that much. It just means that this is not obviously hemoglobin.

      It is alive though.

  1. Red rain GROWS life.. at 121 C degrees
    Just an odd thought occurred to me.. is it possible.. that ALL of the planets in our system are warming right now. (not just earth) That the planets are preparing for incubation of some cyclical space organism? SF writers is correct! I just hope.. that my crazy thought.. is just that.. YIPES!

    1. Earth has been warming
      Earth has been warming forever, it’s the rate of warming that has increased. many planets are beastly hot, like Mercury (for obvious reasons) it may depend on the atmosphere, of which none are like Earth’s. My guess is yes they are warming but at different rates depending on chemicals/elements in there atmosphere and proximity to the sun. Venus has acidic clouds and constant storms.

  2. More questions than answers
    Well, briefly reading the paper seems to indicate that they concluded this:

    *The cells are hyper-extremophiles.

    *They dig yeast.

    But that prompts a lot of questions: since they proved the cells replicate at scorching temperatures of 121°C —above boiling water!— & since the people in Kerala weren’t burned to death when the red rain precipitated, obviously the rain had a normal temperature; but then how is it that the cells were able to show the red color?

    Were they “buzzed” by lightning high in the atmosphere before touching ground?

    1. cold red
      These cells are red at most temperatures, aren’t they?

      The paper just says that they replicate at 121C, showing that they are alive then. I didn’t see anything about the color depending on the temperature, but I could have missed that.

      I’m also not sure whether the water in the experiment at 121C is liquid. The usual high temperature bacteria seem to like that better.

      If these things are from space, it would be interesting to check how they react to cold and low-pressure environments.

      Fascinating stuff.

  3. Age Is Interestion

    The age of the material is interesting. If it is extraterrestial, it might be very old. Furthermore, it would be able to endure extremely cold temperatures also. This is a very interesting post about a very interesting material.

  4. Maybe a can of Rustolium?
    The red in blood as well as the generally ruddy color of Mars, are both due to the presence of iron. Basically, it is a form of rust and rust is the result of oxidation at the atomic level.

    Without doing more than taking a shot in the dark here, I’d venture that the red rain has a rather high iron/ferrous content which may also explain its proclivity for higher temperatures.

    Now, whether the oxidation occurred prior to the fall or as a result of it, is another question.

  5. red cells
    I heard these “cells” have no mitochondrial information or DNA yet can reproduce by mitosis like replication under high temperatures. Maybe this is why they keep raining in higher temperature areas? Maybe this is how earth made life. God is a rain cloud.

      1. falling goo
        I do not know for sure but some people connect them to “falling threads” and other organic material that falls out of the sky. I have heard of the other stuff (star goo?)falling after meteor showers all over the world.

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