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Astrophysics and Space Science
Publisher: Springer Netherlands
ISSN: 0004-640X (Paper) 1572-946X (Online)
DOI: 10.1007/s10509-005-9025-4
Issue:  Online First

The Red Rain Phenomenon of Kerala and its Possible Extraterrestrial Origin

Godfrey Louis and A. Santhosh Kumar
School of Pure & Applied Physics, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam,
686560, India

Received: 18 October 2005  Accepted: 4 November 2005  Published online: 4 April 2006
Abstract:  A red rain phenomenon occurred in Kerala, India starting
from 25th July 2001, in which the rainwater appeared coloured in
various localized places that are spread over a few hundred kilometers
in Kerala. Maximum cases were reported during the first 10 days and
isolated cases were found to occur for about 2 months. The striking red
colouration of the rainwater was found to be due to the suspension of
microscopic red particles having the appearance of biological cells.
These particles have no similarity with usual desert dust. An estimated
minimum quantity of 50,000 kg of red particles has fallen from the sky
through red rain. An analysis of this strange phenomenon further shows
that the conventional atmospheric transport processes like dust storms
etc. cannot explain this phenomenon. The electron microscopic study of
the red particles shows fine cell structure indicating their biological
cell like nature. EDAX analysis shows that the major elements present
in these cell like particles are carbon and oxygen. Strangely, a test
for DNA using Ethidium Bromide dye fluorescence technique indicates
absence of DNA in these cells. In the context of a suspected link
between a meteor airburst event and the red rain, the possibility for
the extraterrestrial origin of these particles from cometary fragments
is discussed.

Keywords  Red rain – red rain cells – meteor airburst – astrobiology –
exobiology – cometary panspermia

contact :
godfreylouis [at] vsnl [dot] com

Is It Raining Aliens?

Nearly 50 tons of mysterious red particles showered India in 2001. Now
the race is on to figure out what the heck they are

By Jebediah Reed | June 2006

As bizarre as it may seem, the sample jars brimming with cloudy,
reddish rainwater in Godfrey Louis’s laboratory in southern India may
hold, well, aliens. In April, Louis, a solid-state physicist at Mahatma
Gandhi University, published a paper in the prestigious peer-reviewed
journal Astrophysics and Space Science in which he hypothesizes that
the samples-water taken from the mysterious blood-colored showers
that fell sporadically across Louis’s home state of Kerala in the
summer of 2001-contain microbes from outer space.

Specifically, Louis has isolated strange, thick-walled, red-tinted
cell-like structures about 10 microns in size. Stranger still, dozens
of his experiments suggest that the particles may lack DNA yet still
reproduce plentifully, even in water superheated to nearly 600°F. (The
known upper limit for life in water is about 250°F.) So how to explain
them? Louis speculates that the particles could be extraterrestrial
bacteria adapted to the harsh conditions of space and that the microbes
hitched a ride on a comet or meteorite that later broke apart in the
upper atmosphere and mixed with rain clouds above India. If his theory
proves correct, the cells would be the first confirmed evidence of
alien life and, as such, could yield tantalizing new clues to the
origins of life on Earth.

Last winter, Louis sent some of his samples to astronomer Chandra
Wickramasinghe and his colleagues at Cardiff University in Wales, who
are now attempting to replicate his experiments; Wickramasinghe expects
to publish his initial findings later this year.

Meanwhile, more down-to-earth theories abound. One Indian government
investigation conducted in 2001 lays blame for what some have called
the “blood rains” on algae. Other theories have implicated fungal
spores, red dust swept up from the Arabian peninsula, even a fine mist
of blood cells produced by a meteor striking a high-flying flock of

Louis and his colleagues dismiss all these theories, pointing to the
fact that both algae and fungus possess DNA and that blood cells have
thin walls and die quickly when exposed to water and air. More
important, they argue, blood cells don’t replicate. “We’ve
already got some stunning pictures-transmission electron
micrographs-of these cells sliced in the middle,” Wickramasinghe
says. “We see them budding, with little daughter cells inside the big

Louis’s theory holds special appeal for Wickramasinghe. A quarter of
a century ago, he co-authored the modern theory of panspermia, which
posits that bacteria-riddled space rocks seeded life on Earth. “If
it’s true that life was introduced by comets four billion years
ago,” the astronomer says, “one would expect that microorganisms
are still injected into our environment from time to time. This could
be one of those events.”

The next significant step, explains University of Sheffield
microbiologist Milton Wainwright, who is part of another British team
now studying Louis’s samples, is to confirm whether the cells truly
lack DNA. So far, one preliminary DNA test has come back
positive.”Life as we know it must contain DNA, or it’s not life,”
he says. “But even if this organism proves to be an anomaly, the
absence of DNA wouldn’t necessarily mean it’s extraterrestrial.”

Louis and Wickramasinghe are planning further experiments to test the
cells for specific carbon isotopes. If the results fall outside the
norms for life on Earth, it would be powerful new evidence for
Louis’s idea, of which even Louis himself remains skeptical. “I
would be most happy to accept a simpler explanation,” he says, “but
I cannot find any.”

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