Aliens could survive on a diet of radiation, study finds

Supernovas could potentially provide cosmic rays to help alien life thrive. © NASA
A bug found feeding off radioactive uranium has opened the possibility to scientists that alien life could survive on a diet of cosmic rays and not require light, oxygen and carbon - believed to be the building blocks of life here on Earth.

The bacterium Desulforudis audaxviator was found 2.8km beneath a gold mine in South Africa, completely deprived of all things required for photosynthesis. The discovery is leading scientists to rethink their theories on what is required to create life, according to a study published by the Royal Society.

"It really grabbed my attention because it's completely powered by radioactive substances," publisher of the findings Dimitra Atri told Science Alert. "Who's to say life on other worlds doesn't do the same thing?", Atri adds.

Desulforudis audaxviator survives off sulfur and water molecules in it’s surrounding rock which are broken up by the radiation. The study theorized that instead of feeding off radioactive materials beneath the planet, microbes could instead be supplied by galactic cosmic rays that are spewed by supernovas.

If the bacterium can survive from radioactive byproducts found in the depths of a  mine, alien life may be able to feed on cosmic radiation, making parts of the universe previously believed to be uninhabitable a potential cauldron of life.

The study found that underground life on the moon could theoretically survive on the cosmic rays they are exposed too, if water and a heat source were available. Atri next plans to study how cosmic radiation levels similar to those found on Mars would affect Desulforudis audaxviator.

However, NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay dismissed the theory telling Popular Science"The energy itself is so small, and because of the high radiation, the organism would have to spend a lot of energy repairing damage from radiation. It uses a lot of its energy in this process".