This luminous beauty may be one of the prettiest jellyfish we've ever seen.
It’s funny. While we are so obsessed with life on other planets, we’ve hardly explored our own. To wit, the ocean covers more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface, yet we’ve explored less than five percent of it.
And when we do get glimpses from within the wild inky depths, what we find are creatures every bit as alien as those we might find on another planet altogether.
Take the UFO-shaped jellyfish recently seen some 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) beneath the sea in a remote region of the Pacific Ocean near American Samoa.
The spectacular little jelly – initially identified as Benthocodon hyalinus, but doing business as the “cosmic jellyfish” – was filmed by a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) making the rounds at the previously unexplored Utu Seamount as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) 2017 American Samoa Expedition.
Lacking identification through genetic material the species can’t be confirmed, but Allen Collins, an invertebrate zoologist with NOAA's National Systematics Lab who initially identified it, says that it still could be a species unknown to science.
"It is potentially new. There really is no way to be definitive about it, though, because specimens would need to be observed under a microscope and using genetics," Collins told Live Science.
"Through excellent video observations with ROVs, we can learn much about the animals in the midwater and what they are up to when we can catch them in an undisturbed state,” says Michael Ford, a conservation biologist with NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “As we collect more observations like this one, we can begin to get a clearer picture of life in the midwater – perhaps the largest biome on the planet."
So wonderful, and drives home the point: Who needs aliens when we’ve got luminous cosmic jellyfish much closer to home?