To find life on Mars, scientists should keep their eyes peeled for pasta.
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.
“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,” Fouke told Live Science. “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 investigate what this extraterrestrial life might look like, Fouke and his team started at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. At this popular tourist spot, hot geothermal water rich in minerals flows from the ground. The minerals precipitate out of the water, creating striking formations made of calcium carbonate, also known as travertine.