In this experiment Ingenhousz demonstrated that plants are dependent on light and their green parts for nutrients and energy.
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The Sun ( G2) radiates light in a particular distribution of colors, emitting more of some colors than others. Gases in Earth's atmosphere subsequently filter that sunlight, absorbing some colors (wavelengths), and so more red light photons reach Earth's surface than blue or green ones. Not surprisingly then, photosynthetic life on Earth's land surfaces such as plants (which includes multicellular organisms from grass to trees) tends to depend mostly on red light, because it is the most abundant wavelength reaching the surface, and on blue light, because it is the most energetic. Earth plants also absorb green light, but not as strongly, so leaves look green to the eye, having adapted to the conditions most commonly found around our Sun and on Earth's planetary surface. As most stars do not have the same distribution of light in color wavelengths as our Sun, however, some researchers hypothesize that photosynthetic life on extrasolar planets will not necessarily have the same colors as on Earth.
Some plants and plantlike organisms have developed other pigments to compensate for low light or poor use of light. Cyanobacteria and red algae have phycocyanin and allophycocyanin as accessory pigments to absorbe orange light. They also have a red pigment called phycoerythrin that absorbs green light and extends the range of photosynthesis. The red pigment is found in vegetables. Some red algae are in fact nearly black, so that increases their photosynthetic efficiency. Brown algae have the pigment fucoxanthin in addition to chlorophyll to widen their absorption range. These red and brown algae grow to depths around 270 meters where the light is less than 1% of surface light.
We also have to be careful when studying green plants because in the light the green parts of these plants carry out photosynthesis as well as respiration.
Photosynthesis does the opposite of respiration. Carbon dioxide is absorbed and oxygen is produced. In order to study respiration in green plants we must block out the light, because although green plants respire all the time they only photosynthesize in the light.
Extraterrestrial photosynthetic plant-type life may look quite look different in color because they will have evolved their own pigments based on the colors of light reaching their surfaces. of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Sciences has modelled the light reaching the surfaces of Earth-sized worlds orbiting their host stars at distances hospitable to Earth-type life, where liquid water could exist on a planetary surface, where depending on the star's brightness (and color) and the planet's atmosphere. Kiang found that "plants" on Earth-like planets orbiting stars somewhat brighter and bluer than the Sun might look yellow or orange, and even look bluish by reflecting a dangerous overabundance of more energetic blue light. On the other hand, plants on planets orbiting stars much fainter and redder than the Sun might look black. Hence, astrobiologists seeking signs of life on planets outside the Solar System may want to look for colors reflected by planetary vegetation that is colored differently than the green wavelengths found on Earth (NASA/GSFC ; Spitzer ; ; ;; and ).
Depending on a main sequence star's spectral type, even a planet with 's atmospheric composition may be colored differently. In general, larger and more massive, main-sequence ("dwarf") stars have hotter surface temperatures than our Sun, , and so they radiate more photons, particularly towards the more energetic, bluish end of the spectrum. As a result of their greater luminosity, Earth-like planets would orbit farther away from hotter dwarf stars to avoid getting scorched, but their skies would still appear bluish due to of abundant bluish photons. Around smaller, less massive and dimmer dwarf stars, however, planets would have to orbit closer in order to sustain a surface temperature that is warm enough to keep water liquid and so the star would appear larger in the sky. In addition, stars with surface temperatures of 3,300 kelvins or lower (red dwarfs of spectral type M2.5 such as , or redder) would emit so fewer photons towards the bluish wavelengths compared to Sol that the sky would appear whitish down to reddish to Human eyes (more from ). If comparatively more bluish or reddish light reaches a planet's surface than on Earth, photosynthetic plant-type life may may not be greenish in color, because such life will have evolved to different pigments in order to optimize their use of available and so color the appearance of the planet's land surfaces accordingly.
Autumnal to bluish colors. Main sequence stars brighter than the Sun (spectral types F and A and the very short-lived B and O) emit more blue and ultraviolet light than the Sun. Given sufficient time for Earth-type photosynthetic life to evolve (e.g., hundreds of millions to billions of years), planets around such stars could develop an oxygen atmosphere with a layer of ozone that blocks more energetic but potentially harmful ultraviolet but transmits more blue light to the ground than on the Earth. In response, life could evolve a type of photosynthesis that strongly absorbs blue light, and probably green as well. In contrast, yellow, orange, and red wavelengths of light would likely be reflected by such plants, so the foliage would have the bright colors found during autumn in Earth's deciduous forests all year round. On the other hand, some plants may reflect some blue light due to its overabundance and potential to "burn" photosynthetic organisms (e.g., like sunburn from ultraviolet exposure on Earth).
The simulations indicated that habitable planets in multi-star systems could host exotic forms of the more familiar plants found on Earth. As indicated in NASA studies announced in 2007, plants evolved under dim red dwarf suns or in more distance habitable orbits around a brighter star may appear black to Human eyes because they would probably need to absorbing more parts of the visible wavelength range to more effectively exploit as much of the available light as possible. Indeed, some in particularly dim environments may also evolve to use energy from infrared or ultraviolet radiation to power photosynthesis.