NASA has discovered a new form of bacterial life that can only be described as “alien,” because this particular bacteria violates science’s building blocks of life here on earth.
The microorganism in question is called GFAJ-1 (NASA sure knows how to name ’em), and arsenic is its primary chemical component. Yes, arsenic. As in, poison. Let me restate that: a new lifeform has been discovered that’s built on a poisonous chemical. And that’s what the thing looks like, in the image above.
“The definition of life has just expanded,” says NASA’s Ed Weiler, calling GFAJ-1 “life as we do not know it.”
Let me break it down for you. There are six basic building blocks within every known form of life on earth: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Doesn’t matter what it is — human, animal, plant, whatever — all life shares these six components.
GFAJ-1 uses arsenic instead of phosphorus. We use phosphorus as a crucial part of DNA and RNA, but this new organism substitutes arsenic in its DNA and RNA. NASA says that this discovery is enormous, because it opens the door to entirely new understandings of what life can be built from. Because if a lifeform so fundamentally different to us can be found on earth, what wildly different lifeforms might be out there in the cosmos, built from chemical components we can’t even imagine?
The chances of alien life existing in the universe just got a whole lot bigger. Is it only a matter of time before we meet E.T. face-to-face?