For those following Science news, you may have heard that NASA was planning on making a big announcement today about… something. Something astrobiology related. Well, those spoilers of all things spoilerriffic at Gizmodo have spilled the beans again – NASA found life different from life as we know it on Earth, organisms that use Arsenic instead of Phosphorous in their molecular structure.
By means of explanation, taken from The Fine Article and enough classes in biology to get you into trouble, putting aside the sugar bonds in your standard DNA molecule, your cells, and the cells of most other organisms on earth, have six major Elements in their molecular structure – Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Hydrogen and Sulfur. For these organisms – everywhere that you would normally see Phosphorus, there’s Arsenic instead. Including DNA molecules.
What does this mean for the search for extraterrestrial life? Well, this can potentially expand the scope of planets that can contain life outside of the more standard forms we usually look for.