Hugh Bollinger
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Weirder and weirder by the day

Here at Riled Up we pay major attention to ecosystems on Earth and their condition. Terrestrial life is endlessly fascinating, important, and beautiful. However, observations by orbiting cameras like Cassini at Saturn and the Kepler Space Telescope, have opened up alien worlds and their environments that just keep getting weirder by the day. Two reports showcase such strangeness observed and predicted. NASA recently reported that it is raining methane on Titan, Saturn's huge moon, as observed by JPL's Cassini orbiter. They depict a very bizarre world using an artist illustration. [caption id="attachment_3584" align="aligncenter" width="928" caption="It's Raining on Titan source: NASA/JPL"][/caption] On Earth, water can exist in three physical states simultaneously-- solid, liquid, gas --called the 'triple point'. On Titan, with surface temperatures of nearly -290 degrees F, water has the hardness of diamonds. Methane has replaced H2O and functions in much the same manner when it rains and modifies Titan environments. But what would life be like on an alien world where water was still a liquid? According to a new study by researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland , Earth-like worlds with multiple suns may host plants that are black or gray instead of our familiar green coloration. The report's lead author, Jack O'Malley-James notes: "the temperature of a star determines its color and, hence, the color of light used for photosynthesis. Depending on the colors of their starlight, plants would evolve differently." Plants on Earth are green because chlorophyll that drives photosynthesis, absorbs sunlight in the blue and red wavelengths, reflects green which we see as their color. Stars producing different wavelengths of light, and most alien solar systems have red-dwarf stars or are binary systems with two suns , would produce high levels of infrared light. Any alien plants on planets orbiting these starts would have evolved to utilize this fundamental environmental factor. [caption id="attachment_3598" align="aligncenter" width="1000" caption="black plants source: University of St. Andrews, Scotland"][/caption] Personally, I prefer the green plants and blue oceans of our world, but then I don't have alien eyes. WHB  
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