Britain’s scurrilous rags recently latched onto a cool scientific paper exploring evidence that the early lunar atmosphere was conducive to life, repackaging it as “ancient aliens” clickbait.
Truly, it was a brilliant Monday for the tabs. But it was business as usual for a pair of fed-up astrobiologists.
Headlines ran the gamut from the Daily Mirror’s “Lunar life? Aliens may have lived on the MOON twice in the past, scientists claim,” published complete with a Getty Images stock photo of a Grey, to more sober coverage by the Daily Star, “Aliens might have lived on the MOON scientists discover in bombshell find” — also published with an almond-eyed alien stock photo.
“It doesn’t particularly surprise me, because, as you well know, journalists have to sell newspapers,” one of the Astrobiology paper’s two authors, Birkbeck, University of London astrobiologist Ian Crawford, Ph.D. tells Inverse. “But since I am over here in Australia, I haven’t seen any of the British press, so I can’t really comment on what they’re saying.”
Crawford’s co-author, Washington State University astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Ph.D., has also taken it in stride.
“I don´t think one has any influence over what the media or press makes out of it,” Schulze-Makuch tells Inverse, “or what angle they pursue.”
The sensationalized headlines are a shame because Crawford and Schulze-Makuch synthesized a lot of fascinating evidence into an exciting hypothesis about the moon’s early atmosphere suggesting that it could have supported life — had life been seeded there in the first place. Their work not only illustrates how habitable planets and moons alike can grow cold and lifeless over time but also how extremophile microbes might have once made their way from the Earth to the Moon.
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