Publication Abstracts

Kiang 2014

Kiang, N.Y., 2014: Looking for life elsewhere: Photosynthesis and astrobiology. Biochemist, 36, no. 6, 24-30.

Photosynthesis produces signs of life we can see from space: the absorbance spectrum of surface photosynthetic pigments and, with oxygenic photosynthesis, atmospheric oxygen. Since the first discovery of a planet in another solar system in 1989, there has been an explosion in the detection of exoplanets (over 1849 as of 7 November 2014) and we are getting ever closer to finding that Goldilocks planet that might harbour life. With telescope observations of these planets, oxygenic photosynthesis has been considered our most robust target "biosignature" that would not appear on a lifeless planet. Since anoxygenic photosynthetic organisms do not produce unambiguously biogenic gases, there is interest in their pigments serving as spectral indicators of life. But will they look the same as on Earth, can we distinguish them from the abiotic, and what will dominate on another planet? Examples from Earth provide us with the potential to extrapolate some rules for photosynthesis to predict its signature on another planet, but there are yet things we must answer about life here to improve our confidence. In particular, given the combination of the available stellar spectrum and molecular constraints on photon energy use, can we predict the pigment spectral features that will dominate, which reductant will match, and what biogenic gases would result? We take clues from the diversity of anoxygenic photosynthetic metabolisms and three very recent examples of oxygenic photosynthesis utilizing other reaction centre (RC) chlorophylls in addition to chlorophyll a (Chl a).

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BibTeX Citation

  author={Kiang, N. Y.},
  title={Looking for life elsewhere: Photosynthesis and astrobiology},

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RIS Citation

ID  - ki08100s
AU  - Kiang, N. Y.
PY  - 2014
TI  - Looking for life elsewhere: Photosynthesis and astrobiology
JA  - Biochemist
VL  - 36
IS  - 6
SP  - 24
EP  - 30
ER  -

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