Did COVID-19 come from space on a meteorite? It's a theory
Could the coronavirus have originated outside of planet earth? That is the controversial thesis of Chandra Wickramasinghe, a British astrophysicist who runs the Cardiff Astrobiology Centre.
Let's be clear that this is not a theory about spaceships from some distant planet loaded with viruses that are lethal to humans.
Chandra Wickramasinghe is a controversial scientist. His object of study throughout his career has been interstellar dust, and his work about this topic is considered valuable by the scientific community. He has made a leap into controversy, however, by putting forward the theory of panspermia. According to this thesis, organic matter travels through space and can contain viruses or bacteria that manage to penetrate the earth's atmosphere.
(Image: Davidnoy, Wikimedia)
Chandra Wickramasinghe told the Daily Mail that a fireball seen in northern China in October 2019 was possibly a meteorite carrying the novel coronavirus.
According to Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe's calculations, the meteorite would have left its trail in an area that coincides with the first outbreaks of the pandemic: "a global band between 40 and 60 degrees north latitude."
It is true that in some traces of meteorites reaching the earth, remains of certain types of biological matter have been found. However, scientists say that such material does not come from space but has been picked up by the meteorite at its entrance through the atmosphere. They dispute Chandra Wickramasinghe's theory about a virus from space.
Chandra Wickramasinghe has posed this theory in an earlier occasion: during the SARS outbreak of 2002-2004. He wrote his first hypothesis in a letter to the prestigious journal 'The Lancet.'
The majority of the scientific community rejects Chandra Wickramasinghe's theses. They accept the debate about whether biological material exists in space but do not contemplate the possibility that extraterrestrial viruses or bacteria could reach planet earth. Some opponents say that Chandra Wickramasinghe's theory is like science fiction in an apocalyptic key.
In the 1970s, there was a writer who anticipated the theory that an extraterrestrial virus could punish the planet earth. Michael Crichton raised the possibiltiy of a biological disaster from outer space in his novel 'The Andromeda Strain.' The story was later turned into a film. Years later, Michael Crichton would write another (very successful) science fiction story: 'Jurassic Park'.
The opposite of the thesis by Chandra Wickramasinghe and 'The Andromeda Stain' is what happens in H.G. Wells's classic 'War of the Worlds.' (Watch out, a spoiler!)
In the novel, published in 1896 (and filmed several times, most recently with Tom Cruise and director Steven Spielberg) the extraterrestrial invasion fails because the alien intruders die of a bacteria from our planet for which they have no defenses.
According to most scientists, the origin of the coronavirus pandemic lies in the phenomenon of zoonoses: diseases that jump from an animal species to a human being. Scholars believe that the virus was transmitted by a bat to a pangolin. From there, it jumped to our species.
The universe continues to be a realm with many secrets. But just because COVID-19 is also a mystery to us, does not mean that it comes from space.