Polonnaruwa (meteorite)

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TypeAlleged meteorite.[1]
CountryNorth Central Province, Sri Lanka
RegionAraganwila village
Coordinates7 52' 59.5" N; 81 9' 15.7" E
Observed fallAlleged.[1]
Fall dateAllegedly fell on 29 December 2012.[1]
Found dateNot published.[2]
TKWNot published.[2]

The Polonnaruwa meteorite is an alleged meteorite that fell on 29 December 2012 close to the city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka, and recovered soon after by Chandra Wickramasinghe's team.[2][3][4][5]

Twelve days after the Polonnaruwa meteorite was "seen falling" to Earth, Chandra Wickramasinghe published in the online fringe science[6] Journal of Cosmology that, after studying some electron micrographs, his team discovered fossilized diatoms (microscopic phytoplankton) inside the meteorite as well as cells similar to those found in the Red rain in Kerala that fell in 2001.[2][4] In addition, his team of scientists reported in a separate article that they are certain that it is a meteorite that originated from a comet and that it also contained living diatoms.[4][5]

The rock is not deemed by peer scientists to be a meteorite,[1][7][8] so it was not recorded in the international Meteoritical Society database.[1]


Wickramasinghe claimed that these microorganisms constitute strong evidence for panspermia,[2]

On 15 January 2013 a diatom expert, Patrick Kociolek, verified that the forms pointed out in the paper are indeed diatoms. Then he added:

"There certainly is not any sign of this being fossilized material. (...) the diversity present in the images represent a wide range of evolutionary history, such that the 'source' of the diatoms from outer space, must have gone through the same evolutionary events as here on Earth. There are no extinct taxa found, only ones we would find living today. For me it is a clear case of contamination with freshwater."

— Patrick Kociolek, [1]

Meanwhile, PZ Myers, who studies evolutionary developmental biology, questions "why a space organism would evolve to look exactly like a species that evolved in a completely different environment, and how it could have converged in all its details on such remarkable similarity to a specific Earthly species? Why, we might even suggest that it clearly looks like contamination."[9] While ignoring the environmental influence in evolution, a proponent of the panspermia hypothesis, Brig Klyce, contends that since life on Earth and life from space are closely related, resemblance would be expected.

Wickramasinghe's research paper was not peer reviewed by experts prior to publication, and early on, there were claims that Wickramasinghe's article was not an examination of a meteorite but of some terrestrial rock.[1][10] Scientists from the Peradeniya University Geology Division, and the Department of Forensic Medicine, as well as the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies in Sri Lanka examined fragments of the alleged meteorite, and concluded that it is a terrestrial rock formed by lightning strikes (fulgurite).[8][11][12] The silica and quartz bulk content confirms the terrestrial fulgurite explanation, and further discards the meteorite hypothesis, as any silica in a meteorite would be present in trace amounts.[13] Another proposed explanation holds that the alleged meteorite did arrive from space, but is associated with the billions of tonnes of terrestrial material that asteroid impact events have previously blasted into space during the Earth's geological history.[14] Following a 29 April 2013 media briefing, Professor of Geology Athula Senarathna of the University of Peradeniya who carried out a research on the alleged meteorite, said that "there could not be any truth in Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe's claim".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Phil Plait (15 January 2013). "No, Diatoms Have Not Been Found in a Meteorite". Slate.com - Astronomy. Retrieved 2013-01-16.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Wickramasinghe, Chandra; J. Wallis; D.H. Wallis & Anil Samaranayake (10 January 2013). "Fossil Diatoms in a New Carbonaceous Meteorite" (PDF). Journal of Cosmology. 22. Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  3. ^ Walter Jayawardhana (13 January 2013). "Polonnaruwa meteorite with evidence of life from outer space described the most important find in 500 years". LankaWeb. Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  4. ^ a b c Wickramasinghe, Chandra; J. Wallis; D.H. Wallis; M.K. Wallis; et al. (13 January 2013). "On the cometary origin of the Polonnaruwa meteorite" (PDF). Journal of Cosmology. 21 (38). Retrieved 2013-01-16.
  5. ^ a b N.C. Wickramasinghe, N.C.; J. Wallis; N. Miyake; Anthony Oldroyd; et al. (4 February 2013). "Authenticity of the life-bearing Polonnaruwa meteorite" (PDF). Journal of Cosmology. Retrieved 2013-02-04.
  6. ^ Jeffrey Beall. "Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access journals". Scholarly Open Access. Archived from the original on 2013-04-03. Retrieved 2013-04-09.
  7. ^ a b "Meteors from outer space made definitive land fall in Aralaganwila says Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe". Hiru News. 29 April 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
  8. ^ a b "Aralaganwila stones are not meteors; says Peradeniya University". Hiru FM News. 14 January. Archived from the original on 2013-02-21. Retrieved 2013-01-18. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ PZ Myers (16 January 2013). "Diatoms…iiiiin spaaaaaaaaaaace!". Pharyngula (blog). Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  10. ^ Plait, Phil (11 March 2013). "UPDATE: No, Life Has Still Not Been Found in a Meteorite". Bad Astronomy. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  11. ^ "Jigsaw puzzle from outer space divides scientists". The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka. 20 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  12. ^ Chandrajith, R.; Senaratne, A.; Gunatilake, P.G.L. (July 2014). "ARALAGANWILA STONY MATERIAL: FUSED SOIL OR EXTRATERRESTRIAL?". Proceedings of the Peradeniya Univ. International Research Sessions, Sri Lanka. 18.
  13. ^ Meteorite or meteowrong?. Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis. Quote: "If you can see quartz with the naked eye, then the rock is not a meteorite."
  14. ^ "Astrobiologists Find Ancient Fossils in Fireball Fragments". MIT Technology Review. 2013-03-11. Retrieved 2013-03-18.