Pinpricks of light on the shore seem to mirror stars above in an undated picture taken on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives.
The biological light, or bioluminescence, in the waves is the product of marine microbes called phytoplankton—and now scientists think they know how some of these life-forms create their brilliant blue glow.
Various species of phytoplankton are known to bioluminesce, and their lights can be seen in oceans all around the world, said marine biologist and bioluminescence expert Woodland Hastings of Harvard University. (Also see "Glowing Sea Beasts: Photos Shed Light on Bioluminescence.")
"I've been across the Atlantic and Pacific, and I've never seen a spot that wasn't bioluminescent or a night that couldn't be seen," Hastings said.
But the thing that struck me after that was "Holy shit, there are STARS in that top photo." I've lived my entire life in places where the sky more resembles the second photo, where the orange-purple lightspill fog drowns out all but the six brightest stars even on a clear night. Seeing so many stars in one photo combined with the blue water is like seeing an alien landscape.