Extraterrestrial worlds could harbor a plethora of purple life forms—yes, purple.

NASA has already identified a variety of rocky, Earth-like planets across the universe. However, unlike our green and lush planet, many of these worlds might host thriving purple life forms — provided life exists there at all.

It’s conceivable that organisms on other planets could exhibit a spectrum of colors, diverging from the dominant green hues found in our earthly ecosystems. While green life on Earth utilizes specific light wavelengths from the sun for photosynthesis, powered by the chlorophyll pigment, recent studies by astrobiologists and microbiologists propose that extraterrestrial life forms might harness different light types and employ purple pigments instead of green.

This notion isn’t far-fetched, considering certain microbes on Earth already display a purple hue. On our planet, however, green life utilizing oxygenic photosynthesis predominates in most environments due to our oxygen-rich atmosphere.

“But this dominance may not be universal,” noted Ligia Fonseca Coelho, a microbiologist at Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute, who spearheaded the research.

The findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, aim to guide space observatories in detecting the distinctive signatures of purple life on distant exoplanets. Future telescopes like the Extremely Large Telescope and the Habitable Worlds Observatory will scrutinize the atmospheres of these far-flung worlds to assess their composition and potential habitability.

“Stop fixating solely on green. Consider purple as well,” emphasized Coelho.

The researchers gathered over 20 strains of purple-colored bacteria from various ecosystems and analyzed their pigments and light emission. By simulating the unique light signatures visible in the reflected light of alien planets, they discovered that these purple bacteria could generate distinct and recognizable signals.

“We could overlook signs of life due to our bias towards green,” Coelho warned.

Purple life may not only exist but could also be widespread.

The most prevalent stars in our Milky Way galaxy are small red dwarfs, emitting primarily lower-energy infrared or red light waves. If life exists on planets orbiting these stars, it would likely utilize infrared light for energy production, a niche where purplish bacteria thrive on Earth.

In environments where green organisms struggle to survive, purple-pigmented alien life could gain an advantage and potentially dominate.

“It’s plausible that Earth was once a purple world,” Coelho speculated, considering our planet’s history devoid of oxygen for the majority of its existence. During this period, before green photosynthesizing plants emerged, different bacteria may have flourished using alternative chemical processes.

“It’s possible that Earth was once dominated by purple life,” Coelho mused.






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