Far from sunlight, deep under the ocean surface, hydrothermal vents sponsor bizarre communities of life not like anything else found on Earth. But these hot spots of life found in extreme geological settings could yield clues to how life may have existed on other planets.
The deepest vent discovered, named Piccard, sits 2,600 feet deeper than the previous recorder holder. This vent is common across mid-ocean ridges and is found in magnesium- and iron-rich rocks, or mafic rocks.
Scientists are excited because they have no previous microbial data from this kind of deep, high-temperature vent.
Another newly discovered vent, Walsh, is located in a slightly different setting. The host rock is ultramafic - a rare rock that forms at very high temperatures.
The third site, Europa, named after the icy Jupiter moon that scientists believe may have life on it, is particularly unique. Though it is situated in an ultramafic environment like Walsh, it is a shallow vent with low temperatures. Scientists have only seen this type of vent once before at the "Lost City" site in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.