NASA released an absolutely stunning gallery of real-world locations where alien life forms might like to spend some time if they visited. These are the weird, extreme places where astrobiologists have studied unusual life forms and conditions.
And it doesn't hurt that they look like alien planets at a glance. Like the above photo of Shark Bay in Western Australia, a salt water pool where stromatolites thrive. (Photo by Mark Boyle.)
Yellowstone National Park, where the weird color is caused by extremophiles living in the intensely hot water. Photo by Darren Edwards.
Lassen National Park, where Bumpass Hell is a hot water area heated by hot magma, that bubbles up and heats the volcanic rock, creating hot mud pots. Microorganisms have adapted to these harsh conditions, and the Mars rovers have found indications that similar conditions may have existed on the Red Planet once. Photo by Sandy Dueck.
Rio Tinto. The acidic waters and high concentrations of iron and other heavy metals still don't prevent some fungi and algae, among other extremophiles, from living there. Photo by Jenn Macalady/Becky McCauley/Hiroshi Hamasaki
High Lakes. The highest volcanic lakes in the world, located in the Andes Mountains. The red color is because of algae that evolved to protect themselves from the high UV radiation. Photo by High Lakes Project/NASA Astrobiology Institute/SETI CSC/NASA Ames Research Center
Mono Lake. Because water never flows out of this basin, it's 2-3 times saltier than the ocean. Hence the hints that weird bacteria that seem to incorporate arsenic rather than phosphorous into their basic biological molecules may have been found there recently. Photo by Henry Bortman.
Ellesmere Island Glacier, where the water is rich in sulfur. Photo by Katherine Wright