60-Second Science

Extrasolar Planets Plants May Come in Bouquet of Colors

If there are plants on other planets, they would likely evolve to take advantage of the most abundant light rays reaching them--which might make them other than green.

If there’s a World Series on some other world, the field may be covered with brilliant red or alluring yellow vegetation.  Because researchers writing in the journal Astrobiology say that if we’re going to scour the heavens for life on other planets, we should keep in mind that the dominant plant species elsewhere may very well be other than green. 

Earth’s photosynthetic species absorb a lot of reddish light, because there are a lot of photons of those wavelengths available after the sun’s rays pass through the atmosphere.  The plants absorb little green light, and thus look green. 

But other stars emit a different distribution of wavelengths and other planets likely filter the light differently.  Meaning that other planets could have a different array of rays reaching their surfaces.  And plants would probably evolve to take advantage of the most abundant slices of the spectrum. 

Which means that some Earth-like planet far, far away could look like New England in autumn all the time and be teeming with rich, red rain forests—or bright yellow golf courses.  Which might make our purple mountains majesties green with envy. 

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