April 22, 2008

Exoplanetary Plants

Photo Credit: Alien Plant by Conradh on Flickr.

We have often set our imaginations on discovering animal-like creatures on other worlds. Yet the first forms of life that we might likely find are alien plants. It makes sense. Plants definitely have to come first as food for more advanced creatures. They are after all, at the base of the food chain. So they must be pretty abundant.
Astrobiologists are now investigating the possible forms and properties of exoplanetary plants based on the myriad of combinations of exoplanets and their parent star's properties. In fact, it's the parent star that may have the most effect on the look-and-feel of flora on other worlds, because plants depend mostly on light, which depend on what type of star their 'Sun' is.
For example, a Red Dwarf would be so feeble that the plant life would have to be dark to absorb as much light as possible. They may also have to grow large leaves to cover as much area for collecting more light. On the other hand, a hotter-than-usual exoplanet close to it's parent star might have vegetation that is light-colored to reflect most of the light. It might even be transparent to avoid getting fried. These and all other 'alien plant' characteristics are fun to imagine by exploring the different configurations of exoplanetary systems.

Other Links:
The Color of Plants on Other Worlds

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