CHENNAI: Three new species of bacteria, which are not found on the earth and are highly resistant to ultraviolet radiation, have been discovered in the upper stratosphere (more than 15 km above the earth) by Indian scientists, according to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
While one of the species has been named Janibacter hoylei after astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, the second has been christened Bacillus isronensis recognising the ISRO’s contribution in balloon experiments which led to the discovery. The third has been named Bacillus aryabhata after the Indian astronomer. An ISRO statement said: “The precautionary measures and controls operating in this experiment inspire confidence that these species were picked up in the stratosphere. While the present study does not conclusively establish the extra-terrestrial origin of micro-organisms, it does provide positive encouragement to continue the work in our quest to explore the origin of life.”
The experiment was conducted using a 26.7 million cubic feet balloon and carrying 459 kg of scientific payload soaked in 38 kg of liquid neon.
The balloon was flown from the National Balloon Facility in Hyderabad and operated by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. The payload consisted of a cryo-sampler containing 16 sterilised stainless steel probes.
Throughout the flight, the probes remained immersed in liquid neon to create a cryo-pump effect. After these cylinders collected air samples from different heights, ranging from 20 to 41 km, they were parachuted down and retrieved. The samples were analysed by scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, and the National Centre for Cell Sciences (NCCS), Pune.
In all, 12 bacterial and six fungal colonies were detected. Of these, three bacterial colonies were totally new species and highly resistant to ultraviolet radiation.
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