Does color theory impact sky and plant color based off the star's color

jedion357's picture
May 21, 2010 - 7:01pm
As a painter I occassionally pay attention to color theory and other times I just paint what looks or feels right

 but the thought popped into my head: Are we able to predict what the general color of the majority of the flora of a planet based on the color of light from the star?

 In particular I was wondering what relationship the that color theory of yellow and blue make green had to the relationship of our suns yellow light to the fact that most of earth's plants are green and we see the sky as blue.

Would red and blue making purple have the effect of a purple sky and blue plants if the star's light was red?

I wont be surprised if the answer is not a simple one and boils down to yes and no at the same time; I was just hoping that someone around here would have either expertise that would shed light or would know of a resource that would shed light.

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TerlObar's picture
May 22, 2010 - 8:28am
Jedi posted this to the mailing list as well.  Here were my initial comments there:

The sky is blue because the atmosphere and dust preferentially scatter shorter (blue wavelengths) of light.  So when you look at the sky and see blue, you are seeing the light scattered in your direction.  This is the same reason the sun looks orange or red at sunrise or sunset, especially when it is hazy or dusty, all the blue light coming directly from the sun has been scattered out of the beam only leaving reds and yellows.  So most planets will have blue sky.  It might be possible to get something more towards the red on planets that orbit late M type stars (the really faint red ones) simply because there will not be as much blue light (there is still some) to scatter.  I'm not sure exactly how that would work out.

When you look at a physical object, like a plant, the color you see is the light that is reflected, all other wavelengths are absorbed.  Plants on Earth are green because the chlorophyll in the plant absorbs all wavelengths of light except green.  Now the green band in the spectrum is fairly small, which means that the chlorophyll is absorbing most of the solar radiation which is good for the plant as that means it is getting the most energy possible (without everything being black).  Now is this because we have a yellow sun, or just because chlorophyll is the most efficient molecule for this kind of work, I don't know.  For that you'll probably have to ask a botanist.  However, I'm sure that there are other chemicals that could do similar work and absorbed different colors giving you different color plants on other planets.

So you always get blue skies but I see no reason not to have different colored flora on a new planet.  Chlorophyll is just the most efficient chemical in use in plants on earth.
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Ascent's picture
May 22, 2010 - 11:03am

Jedion, it would actually be the other way around. The view of the stars would be affected by the ambient light in the atmosphere. We perceive our sun as yellow because of the dust in the atmosphere. Our sun is actually so close to white as to be imperceptible to a different color range. And as for blue, orange, and red stars, they also would appear white, but their color and heat would affect the length and brightness of their corona, because the blues, reds, and yellows disappear, because, as TerlObar pointed out, they are scattered, but not just by the atmosphere, but by the corona itself. So, essentially, no matter where you go, the star will always look white. Only when we compare the appearance of two stars would we be able to perceive any color difference. In a comparison to other stars, at best, you might perceive some sort of eggshell hue in our own sun.

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