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Otherworldly

10/26/2011

In underground caves and equally extreme environments, Jenn Macalady finds analogs for life on other Earths.

—David Pacchioli

The first time she entered Italy’s Frasassi Caves, Jenn Macalady gave her husband a scare. “He was waiting for me to come out,” she remembers. “I was so amazed by what was down there that I lost all track of time. I was completely enthralled.”

Frasassi, discovered in 1948, is one of the show caves of Europe. The 19-mile subterranean system comprises one of the largest and most spectacular limestone complexes in the world, drawing thousands of visitors every year. But it wasn’t the stalactites and stalagmites that captured her. Macalady, a geomicrobiologist at Penn State, was more interested in the slime.  (Click for more)

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