P RONA / OAR / NATIONAL UNDERSEA RESEARCH PROGRAM / NOAA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY P RONA / OAR / NATIONAL UNDERSEA RESEARCH PROGRAM / NOAA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Black smoker hydrothermal vent. Black smokers are found on the deep ocean floor. Hot magma (molten rock) below the surface heats water in the rock, which then erupts from the seabed into the water. Despite being at temperatures of several hundred degrees Celsius, the water does not boil due to the immense pressure at that depth. When it contacts the surrounding cold water it cools rapidly and dissolved minerals precipitate from it, which are responsible for the characteristic black colour of the water jets. Many black smokers support ecosystems based on bacteria that can utilise the dissolved minerals. These are one of the few ecosystems on Earth not directly dependent on the Sun's energy. Photographed in the Atlantic Ocean.
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