Planet color may suggest alien life

Feb. 11, 2013 at 7:33 PM   |   Comments

HEIDELBERG, Germany, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- The light signatures of lichens and algae reflected in a distant planet's distinctive coloring could be evidence of alien life, German researchers say.

Seen from space, Earth gives off a large amount of near-infrared light reflected off the chlorophyll in plants, and similar light wavelength might be seen on distant exoplanets if they also host green vegetation, they said.

However, Siddharth Hegde and Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, said they think many rocky exoplanets will have extreme heat, dryness or acidity, and that hardier life forms -- like lichens and algae -- will dominate their surfaces.

To discover what such organisms would look like from a distance, the researchers analyzed the light reflected by some of Earth's more extreme life forms: lichens in arid regions, bacterial mats in very hot water and red algae in acid mine drainage, NewScientist.com reported.

Seen from across space, each type of organism would create a unique color pattern, they said; lichens, for instance, would appear more yellow than the algae or bacteria.

While such color patterns wouldn't necessarily mean life is present, Hegde and Kaltennegger said, it could be a step toward narrowing down exoplanets for more detailed searches.

Topics: Max Planck
© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Recommended UPI Stories
Featured UPI Collection
2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]

2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]

Most Popular
Mars rover spots rock shaped like thigh bone
Parched land in the drought-riddled West is actually rising
Tech industry All Stars developing 'Star Trek'-style communication badges
Latvia boasts world's first net for migrating bats
NEC touts its fingerprint technology
Trending News