It’s Life, Jim, But Not as We Know It

NASA issued a coy little update on Monday about an astrobiology study that would “impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life” and that the journal Science would have the full story. Speculation was rampant that maybe they had discovered life on another planet,* but although that doesn’t appear to be the case, NASAWatch and Gizmodo are reporting that it’s something damn near as cool.

Bacteria discovered in California’s Mono Lake have DNA which incorporates arsenic rather than phosphorous, making it completely different from virtually every other life form we’ve ever found. This has enormous implications for our search for extraterrestrial life, since it vastly expands the types of environments we may expect to find living organisms. Earthlike chemistry may be entirely optional.

This is, um, kind of huge.

(via Live Granades)

*I would like to think that, had they done so, the press conference would have been a little less like, “We found something neat! Go read about it in Science,” and a little more like, “Holy shit you guys! We’ve discovered life on another planet!!!!!” but perhaps that’s just me.