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The Infectious Aliens: Viruses, Sunspots and Space Aliens

Scientists have long theorized about how life on Earth may have come to exist. Ideas range from the spontaneous formation of simple life forms from complex combinations of amino acids in the early Earth’s primordial pools, to more far-out notions that the building blocks of life had been carried here from worlds afar.

Hence, it is no longer a fringe concept when we consider whether life on Earth didn’t actually evolve from “ancient aliens”, at least in some sense of the term. However, even some modern scientists have built upon the idea, taking the concept even further by giving consideration to whether there may be evidence for ongoing alien visitation in modern times.

This wouldn’t necessarily have to involve the appearance of strange beings occupying equally strange craft, however. One unique, albeit an odd theory about how aliens may find their way to Earth involves extraterrestrial microbes, and even viruses making their way here from worlds afar.


The concept has its early roots in theories that began to emerge throughout the later Victorian period, as biologists began to consider the formation and transmission of influenza outbreaks. In 1890, a letter appearing in The Daily Telegraph outlined an early version of the “alien microbe” theory as follows:

You state that no solution as to the cause of the present influenza epidemic in Europe has been suggested, which, as you mention, attacks equally those on ships at sea as well as residents on land. I venture to put forward, upon the authority of Richard A. Proctor, a possible cause. In his interesting work, “The Expanse of Heaven,” he describes how the Earth is “pelted with star dust, stoned with meteor balls.” No less than 146,000 millions of meteoric bodies falling each year upon the Earth; how in their rapid velocity through the air they lose their solidity and reach the earth in the form of meteoric dust; that in the month of November a glass covered with pure glycerin exposed to a strong wind receives a number of black angular particles, which, being submitted to chemical action, produce yellow chloride of iron.

…It has been suggested that some of the pestilences which history records were produced by meteoric influences. Some of the plagues were so sudden in their origin, lasted so short a time and had such singular features as to suggest the idea of extra-terrestrial influence. Amongst these may be mentioned the sweating sickness of the 15th and 10th centuries, which was not only characterized by the peculiarities in question, but by its recurrence thrice in 46 years, and has suggested the action of a recurrent cause like the return of meteoric clusters circling around the sun.

Surprisingly, the very similar notions that passing comets, or even sunspot cycles, may be able to influence flu pandemics has been given serious attention within the last few decades. In 1990, researchers F. Hoyle and N.C. Wickramasinghe charted flu outbreaks along with sunspot data dating all the way back to 1761, as discussed in an article that appeared in the journal Nature. To their surprise, flu pandemics and sunspot maximums appeared to coincide, and as of 1990, had continued to do so for 17 years. This led Hoyle and Wickramasinghe to posit that viruses, bacteria, and other simple life forms not only exist in space, but in their opinions, may have evolved there too.

As they note in the 1990 paper’s conclusion: 

“[W]e note that electrical fields associated with intense solar winds can rapidly drive charged particles of the size of viruses down through the exposed upper atmosphere into the shelter of the lower atmosphere, the charging of such particles being due to the photoelectric effect. This could define one possible causal link between influenza pandemics and solar activity.” 

Granted, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe’s theory hasn’t managed to garner favor from the mainstream scientific community, and in likelihood, any correlations that do exist between flu pandemics and solar cycles could be explained in other ways. Still, this hasn’t ruled out the possibility that strange varieties of microbial life here on Earth may have their origins elsewhere. In 2013, it was announced that the discovery of a unique Pandoravirus, which measured a whopping micrometer (that makes it roughly ten times the size of other known viruses).


The water-born virus was not considered a threat to humans, but most unique of all its traits had been the fact that only about six percent of the Pandoravirus genes were similar to anything seen elsewhere here on Earth. Hence, some biologists seriously suggested the idea that this rare virus could have originated on Mars.

In searching for the origins of such strange and seemingly exotic microbial life, questions are inevitably raised about the nature and origin of all types of life on our planet, in addition to our certainty about what its ultimate source may have been.

Indeed, our ongoing search for “aliens” may require looking no further than right here, which begs that unique question: could we be the real “aliens”, after all?


Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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