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Our concept of what extraterrestrial life will look like if we ever encounter it needs to change drastically, according to NASA. Instead of looking for little green men, we need to expect beings that look more like pasta.
Live Science notes that pasta extraterrestrials make more sense than do green creatures who take people back to their spaceship and perform medical experiments on unsuspecting humans:
“Hot-spring-loving microbes create rock formations that look like fettuccini or capellini, according to a new NASA-funded study published online April 30 in the journal Astrobiology. Such pasta-shaped formations could be the first clues to life on other planets, said study author Bruce Fouke, a geobiologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.”
Fouke added that while some may be disappointed with pasta aliens, the evidence supports that theory:
“If we go to another planet with a rover, we would love to see living microbes or we’d love to see little green women and men in spacecraft. But the reality is we’re going to be looking for life that was probably growing in a hot spring, life that was fossilized.”
To get a better idea what astronauts might find, Fouke and his team traveled to Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. There, hot geothermal water filled with minerals flows freely out of the ground. Those minerals harden and form structures composed of calcium carbonate, also known as travertine. Fouke explained how this same process would apply to life in outer space:
“It’s the first study to ever have this kind of in-depth analysis of the environment, the rock deposits and also the omics. That means now, for the first time, when we have a rock that is fettuccini-looking travertine, if that rock is collected and analyzed on Mars, we have the full suite of these extremely cutting-edge analyses for the microbes.”
The travertine formations build upon one another with each burst of geothermal water, Space.com explains:
“In the environment of the hot springs, these bacterial mats are ‘entombed by rock, coated with crystals of a compound called calcium carbonate in the form of travertine. Each strand picks up a layer of rock about 0.2 inches (5 millimeters) thick every day.”
So while many may hang their heads in disappointment to find out that a bowl of fettuccine alfredo is likely what we’ll find if we ever do make contact, they can still take comfort in this fact: Pasta is nutritious, delicious, and it might even talk to you if you’re on Mars.
— The Independent (@Independent) December 16, 2015
Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons