Space team go into interflora overdrive

Scientists appear to be on the brink of being able to admire the foliage on planets outside the solar system. And they reckon they could see signs of purple palm trees and exotic bushes with bright yellow leaves.

Artist's impression of plants on an alien worldIt may be a while before Interflora goes interstellar. But the scientists say clues in the the faint light from alien worlds will help them detect what local plants is made of.

They will be able to tell whether alien plants contain chlorophyll like those on Earth and so mainly look green, or whether some other chemistry is dominant giving them more exotic leaves and ferns.

The scientists’ report, in the latest issue of the journal Astrobiology, follows their study of light absorbed and reflected by organisms on Earth. It comes as another Nasa team claims it can produce the technology to identify other Earths around nearby stars.

The plant study’s lead author Nancy Kiang, of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York, said: “We can identify the strongest candidate wavelengths of light for the dominant colour of photosynthesis on another planet. It makes one appreciate how life on Earth is so intimately adapted to the special qualities of our home planet and Sun.”

Maybe they will identify alfafa Centauri.

The picture is an artist’s impression provided by Nasa/JPL-Caltech.

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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