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New Horizons went into safe mode and lost a few days of science observations. And there seems to be some confusion over whether there are aliens on Comet 67P.
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New Horizons is just days away from Pluto. The whole world seems pretty fixated on what we're going to learn as the probe flies by. And you can't really blame anyone. There's so much we don't know.

Which is why everyone was understandably alarmed when on July 4th, the probe experienced what NASA called an anomaly and lost contact with Earth. I mean, you've been traveling through space for over nine years, New Horizons. 10 days before before the big fly by is not the time to be having problems. 

When a Space-X Rocket exploded a few weeks ago, that was also called an anomaly. So it could have been anything. But after combing through the data, mission scientists figured out it was just a one-time bug.

New Horizons has a lot of data just sitting on its hard drive that it hasn't had time to send to earth, so the computer was compressing all that data to make room for more. Then in preparation for the Pluto fly by, the computer started copying over some of its commands to its memory while it was still busy compressing. That's when the processor overloaded and turned itself off, leaving the backup computer to contact Earth for help.

It didn't take long for the scientists to get New Horizons up and running again though, and now it's been switched to Encounter Mode, so that even if there is another bug, the computer will automatically restart and pick up where it left off, instead of waiting for help from earth.

Because of the hiccup, we have unfortunately lost some of the pictures and data that the probe was supposed to collect from July 4th through the 6th. Mainly photos and atmospheric observations. But barring any further anomalies, everything else should go according to plan, with NASA releasing the first images from the fly by within a couple of days of July 14.

But it takes so long to transfer data from the outer reaches of our solar system that we won't have all the data until sometime in November. For now, researchers have plenty to focus on with all the information on Comet  67P coming back from the Rosetta orbiter and the Philae lander. And this week in particular, there's been a lot of talk about how two astronomers from the UK claim to have found evidence of alien life on the comet. So we just want to step in here and say - they did not find aliens.

Then team analyzed the images and data from Rosetta to learn more about 67P's climate and terrain, and presented their findings at the meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society earlier this week. They noted that the comet has a dark crust that contains organic material, as well as plenty of outgassing, where ice below the surface sublimates, or vaporizes. And they said that they think all this could be explained by the presence of extraterrestrial life. Microbial activity, according to them, would heat up the inside of the comet and help the ice sublimate. Plus bacteria might release gasses like methane and carbon dioxide.

But, none of this is actually evidence for extraterrestrial life. It's much more likely that the comet picked up some of its organic compounds as it formed, and the outgassing happens as the sun heats up the ice, with the dark dust settling in the aftermath.

So, I should point out here that the two researchers are staunch advocates of what's known as Panspermia: the theory that life on Earth originated elsewhere in the solar system, like comets for instance. And one of the scientists has taken this a step further, proposing that certain viral outbreaks, like the 1918 flu epidemic or SARS, came from comets too.

So don't believe all the sensational headlines. I mean, we might not be exactly sure where the organic material on 67P came from, in the same way that we're not exactly sure why some viruses mutate into pandemics while others don't, but in both cases the answer is probably not aliens.

Thank you for watching this episode of SciShow News, which was brought to you by our patrons on Patreon, not aliens. If you want to help make this show possible, just go to And don't forget to go to and subscribe.