Mystery Of Fairy Circles Solved – It Does NOT Involve Alien-Landing

The mystery of fairy circles has been unveiled by scientists who investigated their occurrence in both Africa and Australia. And, no, their explanation does not revolve around alien-landing. The paper is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Fairy circles viewed from above in Namibia. Photo credits: N. Juergens.
Top view of fairy circles in Namibia. Photo credits: N. Juergens.

The phenomenon of fairy circles – circular patches of land devoid of green and found in grass fields – has long been considered a great mystery. Their occurrence is mainly concentrated in arid regions of Namibia, Africa. They have also been documented in Australia, and recently confirmed in the new study that has been conducted by scientists from Germany, Israel, and Australia. Are these strange circles of barren land ‘evidence’ that aliens regularly land on Earth? If not, how else, and why, are they formed? What are they exactly?

Fairy circles constitute bald patches of ground in the form of circles that are evenly distributed in hexagonal patterns, standing out in green and brown in fields of grass because of their red colour. They are specially phenomenal to view from airplanes. Given their queer, orderly arrangement, fairy circles have been the subject of many a speculation as to its cause. Apart from the far-fetched alien-landing theories, science came up with two possible explanations: either they are formed by termites, or they are self-forming, a consequence of plants pulling moisture from the soil.

A single fairy circle in Namibia. The size thereof varies from 2 to 15 metres in diameter. Photo credits: Thorsten Becker.
A single fairy circle in Namibia. The size thereof varies from 2 to 15 metres in diameter. Photo credits: Thorsten Becker.

The new study focuses on the latter theory; its researchers came to the conclusion after comparing patches from Africa and Australia. These were found to be almost identical, despite coming from soils that were significantly different from each other in terms of their make-up. This finding together with the fact that termites were found in only very few numbers in the Australian location made the researchers incline to the natural formation hypothesis.

Their investigations on the fields and their use of techniques such as remote sensing, spatial pattern analysis, and process-based mathematical modeling, indicated that the highly-ordered patterns were self-formed. Furthermore, no link with termite activity was found. Rather, the fact that the patterns from African and Australia are nearly identical “supports a central universality principle of pattern-formation theory”, write the authors.

The team suggests that the circles are formed as a result of different plants competing with each other for water: dominant plants would be able to pull more water to the detriment of weaker plants which would then die out, leaving behind bald, red patches of earth. Then, when rain is sent to revive the land, the water drains from the surface to the plants around the rim.

So, no, conspiracists, fairy circles are not proof of alien-landings whatsoever. They are but a product of nature.

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