An eerie ecosystem consisting of lagoons and vast plains full of microorganisms has been discovered by researchers in Argentina’s Puna de Atacama desert.

Researchers according to livescience, discovered a whole world of micro-organism-laden lagoons by accident when they spotted a network of strange ‘pools’ in the desert in northwestern Argentina on satellite images.

The Atacama Desert is a vast plateau over 3,660 meters, above sea level at the border of Argentina and Chile. There, the high altitude, dry conditions and sunshine combine to form a harsh environment where few plants and animals survive.

Brian Hynek, an associate professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Maria Farías, a microbiologist and co-founder of the environmental consultancy PunaBio, walked several miles through the barren landscape before seeing the lagoons.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen or really, with anything that any other scientist has seen,” Hynek said.

Twelve lagoons with shallow, crystal-clear waters surrounded by mountains make up the eerie ecosystem , which spans 25 acres of desert. Beneath the surface of the lagoon, the researchers observed small mounds of microorganisms. “This discovery is the greatest moment of my life,” added Brian Hynek.