Before the evolution of photosynthesis, which produces chlorophyll, the first life on earth might have been purple, rather than the green that dominates today. The world is so very green because chlorophyll in plants absorbs red and blue wavelengths and reflects green ones. Before this, red and blue, which combine to form purple, may have predominated. This is especially important when we search for distant planets that may still be in that earlier stage of evolution.

In, Ker Than quotes reseacher Neil Reid as saying, “We should make sure we don’t lock into ideas that are entirely centered on what we see on Earth.”

Than quotes his colleague, geneticist Shil DasSarma, as saying, “If you happen to see a planet that is at this early stage of evolution, and you?re looking for chlorophyll, you might miss it because you?re looking at the wrong wavelength.”

In New Scientist, Jeff Hecht agrees that “the greenery on other planets may not be green.” He quotes Nancy Kiang of NASA as saying that extraterrestrial plants will look different because they have evolved their own pigments based on the colors of light reaching their surfaces.

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