Up until this point life has always been assumed to be composed according to very rigid and specific biological rules and regulations. The specific chemical makeup of all organisms has been comprised of six basic elements to fulfill comparable jobs in each life form on this planet since the dawn of time. At least this is what scientists were led to believe until recently. The recent press conference by NASA scientists has opened doors for exobiology and allowed the ever expanding world of the universe to include possibilities about life once thought impossible.
The six elements that once were thought to comprise all life in the known universe were carbon, oxygen, phosphorous, hydrogen, and sulfur. But when scientists discovered that phosphorous could be replaced by arsenic, the resulting change to the DNA would mean that for the first time there was a creature on the planet that proved the original theory -that all life on Earth needed to essentially be a carbon copy of other forms of life in structure- was essentially wrong. Never before has biology strayed so far from even the most basic of structures, but now with this new system there is no doubt in many peoples’ minds. This is the closest thing to proof on our planet that an alien bacteria could survive while on a planet where -for example- phosphorous doesn’t exist. If the life were able to form in the same way as the arsenic loving bacteria.
So take Saturn’s moon Titan. Titan is a large moon with many different elements included on it. Among these elements are vast amounts of arsenic, which could in theory mean at least two of the necessary components of life have been discovered on it in the past two years. And Titan also has a dense atmosphere. If life, even microbial life, were discovered on Saturn’s moon, it is possible it could give us some much needed perspective and allow us to find out what life might have developed to look like in the past. But if there is nothing on Titan, we still have plenty of opportunities to search for it elsewhere until we discover information to the contrary suggesting it is exclusive to Earth. But with every new discovery, the case for life elsewhere in the universe seems to expand rather than shrinking. And as with so many things, the possibility of something as simple as a microbe also would seem to suggest far more complex and even intelligent life as well. In this way the NASA scientists, upon discovering the simple arsenic microbe may have actually begun a journey that could eventually end with the discovery of far more life in the universe than we previously thought.
And if that’s not enough for one week, NASA has also suggested that there may be up to three more times as many stars as previously thought. The conjunction of the two revelations, if it was not readily apparent at the beginning is clear: Our universe just got a lot bigger and it looks like it may have lot more life than we thought possible. In fact it’s moving from “anything’s possible” to “you can bet on it” territory fairly quickly.