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“Tree-like” life forms might be detectable even from across the vast spaces that separate us from planets in other solar systems, two scientists propose.
But any test of the claim will have to wait until humans are able to photograph Earth-like planets outside our solar system, an achievement that NASA scientists say they’re working toward.
Now, researchers Christopher E. Doughty and Adam Wolf of the Carnegie Institution in Stanford, California, propose an additional technique that could reveal whether plants are “tree-like” in structure.
These tree-like forms cast shadows, they noted. The large-scale pattern of shadows would lead the light reflected off the vegetation to take on specific brightness and color characteristics. For a viewer on a distant planet, Doughty and Wolf wrote, these characteristics would depend on the angles at which the viewer, the planet and its sun lie with respect to each other; but these characteristics would change in a predictable way over time, producing detectable pattern.
“The presence of tree-like structures is clearly distinguishable” from, say, flat ground with the same color, wrote the researchers, who developed a computer simulation to work out this special pattern of reflectance characteristics.
If this vegetation were wide spread enough, it would affect the reflectance properties of the whole planet, they added. Clouds would be a problem, they noted, but could potentially be taken in to account.
Most interestingly, they added, the reflectance pattern due to wide spread tree-like structures is distinctive enough that it can be observed even if a planet is barely visible, appearing as a single point of light in our telescopes. The changes in this dot’s brightness and color at different “sun/view geometries,” they explained, should be the giveaway.
Originally posted by sprtpilot
Theoretical BS. These wild claims are really getting old.