** UPDATE: There is mounting evidence that the science behind this finding is flawed! Read more in this good article at Slate.com. **
Yesterday NASA announced the discovery of a new type of life, not on Mars, but right here on Earth. What they found is a bacteria that can use arsenic to build the stuff of life, rather than the known elements all living things typically use: phosphorus, sulfur, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The microbe, GFAJ-1, replaces phosphorus with arsenic, known to be toxic to most other life forms on Earth. By discovering GFAJ-1, scientists believe we will be better equipped to potentially find life on other planets considering we now know that we need to look for more than just the six elements once believed to be the only building blocks of life. As Ed Weiler of NASA said, "The definition of life has just expanded."
I just love scientific developments like these. I've always secretly wanted to be some sort of biologist studying life forms all day long. This discovery was made while NASA astrobiologists were running tests on bacteria collected from sediment in the beautiful Mono Lake. I, mean, who doesn't wish their job at least sometimes looks like this picture. I explored the NASA Astrobiology webpage and found information on some amazing sounding careers (now, all I need is another degree!). They even have an Ask an Astrobiologist feature where the public can submit their astrobiology-related questions and hear back from a professional. But you don't even have to wait because they've already answered your Niburu and 2012 question, you can view the answer here (apparently over 2500 questions have been submitted regarding the topic!).
ARTICLES and WEBSITES
Astrobiology Magazine - Searching for Alien Life, on Earth
"Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe."
NASA-Funded Research Discovers Life Built With Toxic Chemical
NASA News Conference in its entirety: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Its Astonishing Implications For Our Future
Life in Space: Astrobiology for Everyone
The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology