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ScienceShot: Worlds With Two Suns May Sport Black Plants
18 April 2011 7:01 pm
Plants that evolve on planets in a multisun solar system might look quite different from Earth’s mostly green foliage, researchers will report tomorrow at a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in Llandudno in the United Kingdom. To maximize energy absorption for photosynthesis, especially when the suns have vastly different colors or if at least one of the suns is dim, plants—or, more correctly, their extraterrestrial analogs—may use one or more types of light-absorbing pigments that absorb across a broad range of wavelengths, which would tend to make the plant appear black or gray (main image). Although the idea that planets that could host such life may sound far-fetched, such orbs may not be so rare: The team’s computer simulations indicate that Earth-like planets can exist in several types of stable orbits in multistar systems (inset). More than one-fourth of the sunlike stars in our galaxy and about half of the long-lived but dim, cool stars called red dwarfs are found in solar systems containing two or more stars, the researchers note.
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