Extraterrestrial Life Announcement?

Saw this over on James McGrath’s blog “Exploring our Matrix”:

“NASA is going to be holding a press conference on December 2nd, and the line-up of panelists has some speculating that they will be announcing that they have discovered life elsewhere than on Earth (or at least from elsewhere). The NASA press release simply says that it relates to an ‘astrobiology discovery’ and that it will ‘discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.'”

Here’s hoping they’re going to say something interesting like it’s been determined that the controversial bacterial fossils found on Antarctic meteorites are of Martian origin. Or something like that.

Again, to my mind, the most interesting question is whether or not the extraterrestrial life is DNA based or not. As I used to point out to my students, if it’s DNA based, that is a pretty big piece of evidence in support of the Panspermia theory of the origin of life on Earth.

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

2 thoughts on “Extraterrestrial Life Announcement?”

  1. Fascinating stuff, thanks Nick. Since I’m sure you have either written about it or know someone who has, have you any wisdom, thoughts or things you would point to if I wanted to do some reading in regard to the impact on theology of possible extraterrestrial life?

  2. It seems that the announcement was a little “overblown.” What was found was simply a bacterium that, in an environment of high arsenic concentration was able to use arsenic rather than phosphorus in its cellular processes and DNA. It’s not quite as exciting as something truly meeting the criteria for life but not at all like other terrestrial entities. It seems rather akin to the odd bacteria that we have found in deep sea volcanic vents and similar “extremophiles.” It does continue to “push the envelope” a little bit as to what is OK and suggests that extraterrestrial life might have very different biologies from our own. I would wonder, however, how plentiful arsenic is as an element as opposed to phosphorus in the universe as a whole before we imagine its being a “regular” way of doing cellular business. It is kind of cool to think of an “arsenic planet” where all the life forms would be poisonous to us, however. A new extraterrestrial version of “don’t drink the water?”

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