Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and ... no, wait. We're at the bottom of the ocean. 

This colourful blob of wonder was discovered by the NOAA research vessel Nautilus off California's coast – 5,301 feet (1,616 metres) beneath the surface! We've seen purple deep-sea creatures before, but this one has trumped the tower of weird. 

NOAA scientists were just as confused by the creature's appearance as you probably are. "I’m stumped, I have no idea – I couldn’t even hazard a guess," said one of the researchers. But a bit of digging and collaboration with the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology has sparked some interesting guesses. 

The odd-looking orb might be a type of pleurobranch, a marine animal closely related to nudibranch sea slugs. According to information on the Nautilus website, we currently don't know of any pleurobranchs that rock a purple hue, so it's quite possible that you're looking at a new species! 

To find out more, the team collected the animal and sent it off for analysis. Once there, it unrolled to reveal two fleshy lobes, typical of these invertebrates. 

Confirming it's a new species will take some time, the team said in a statement. It's also possible that the critter is known, but just hasn't been seen in California. We'll be updating you if more information comes to light.