Feeds

Plants may be red and yellow in galactic boonies

Star Trek no longer accurate depiction of space flora?

High performance access to file storage

NASA researchers claim we might find yellow or even red plants growing in other galaxies.

But probably not blue. That would be ridiculous.

In the latest issue of the Astrobiology journal (You don't subscribe?), a paper titled "Spectral Signatures of Photosynthesis II Coevolution with Other Stars And The Atmosphere on Extrasolar Worlds" suggests some planets may be largely populated with non-green plants.

(You can read the article here but honestly, you should take our word on it. These guys aren't mucking around with the science razzmatazz. If you try to read it on the toilet, you'll start to leak from both ends.)

The researchers' findings are based on how plants absorb and reflect different types of light.

Let's step back a moment: Chlorophyll in plants takes light from the sun and converts it into energy through photosynthesis.

Many of us were taught in school that plants are green because they absorb more blue and red light and less green. The reflection of green light makes plants appear that lovely color.

But you might have noticed nervous sweat beads appearing on your science teacher's brow while this was all being explained. The dirty secret is - scientists weren't positive why.

The paper has a theory:

In our solar system, more red light reaches Earth than other colors. (A galactic red light district if you will, ho ho ho *nudge *nudge.) Meanwhile, blue light is the easiest to absorb. Plants make efficient use of red and blue, leaving poor green spectrum light not unlike a banjo player in an orchestra.

On other planets, different colors might dominate the spectrum — leading to different color plants. Blue is still unlikely because it's just so darn easy to absorb.

However, from a mathematical standpoint, a young reporter might argue a theory of red and yellow plants is superfluous.

As far as the infinite expanses of the universe are concerned, a blanket statement of "______ exists" has a 100 per cent chance of being correct. So don't count blue plants out just yet. (Reporter's note: If it turns out space has a positive curvature and is not in fact infinite I'll buy you a Coke. It's still bloody huge though. And since the universe is therefore going to collapse upon itself maybe you should spend less time being so argumentative about these things.) ®

Bootnote

Nancy Kiang, a NASA biometeorologist who led the study, clarifies light absorption:

Just thought I'd pick here and there: there is more sunlight ENERGY in the blue-green, but more sunlight PARTICLES in the red.

The blue light isn't necessarily easier to absorb, but blue photons are more energetic and therefore easier to transmit along a sequence of pigments to a reaction center that does the biochemistry. Like the way energy gets from a power plant (blue) to your home, with losses along the way (you could have a gas tank right at home, too - red).

By the time the blue light energy gets there, it's become downgraded to red. Molecular reasons favor the blue, and environmental resource availability favors the red.

Thanks for trying to read the papers!

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.