What will happen when humanity first meets alien life in the depths of space? We'll murder it and see if anything valuable plops out its corpse, of course. Following a trail of cryptic hints, Elite: Dangerous players have encountered alien life for the first time on a few planets. And shot it.
Luckily, the giant barnacle-looking lumps seem inert, and have not respond with hails of plasma and threats to destroy the galaxy. Not yet, anyway. However, spires which surround them (and may be part of them) are the only known source of meta-alloys so... humanity, ladies and gentlemen!
The discovery came thanks to mysterious Unknown Artefacts, which have been appearing across space making weird noises. It seems they perform scans, broadcast distorted Morse code, and even send encoded diagrams of ships which scan them. And they point towards Merope. So off people went! Barnacles have since been found on other planets too.
Many suspected Unknown Artefacts (UAs) would lead towards the Thargoids, Elite's hostile race of insectile aliens, and maybe they still will. The Thargoids haven't been discovered in Dangerous yet, but in earlier games had ultra-powerful weapons and the ability to pull ships out of jumps. Encountering them usually meant a swift death.
In other Elite news, a flotilla of hundreds of players is setting out towards the far side of the galaxy, across the galactic core, in the Distant Worlds expedition. Following the path of a trailblazing earlier journey, they'll scan and explore as much as they can along the way. Who knows what they might find? We've sent Brendan along to see.