Fernando Comerón

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Fernando Comerón

Where no plant has been before

Garching bei München, Germany
Astronomer at the European Southern Observatory

Courtesy, European Southern Observatory

Dear plant, my invitation to you is to a plantless place, called Cerro Armazones, in the desert of Atacama. Even if you were the most thirst-resisting cactus, that doesn’t sound like a friendly environment for plants… But sometimes, deserts are places of promise, and Armazones holds a promise to scientists. Astronomers are building there the most powerful telescope in the world, and one of the many exciting things that it might see is planets like our Earth outside our solar system. And what is the most exciting thing to be found in another planet? Life, of course! Looking for life light years away is tricky, but plants can help. If there are plants a bit like you out there, making their planet green as you do, the light that they reflect from their suns may display something called “the red edge of vegetation”, due to the chlorophile in your leaves. Life in a planet covered by forests could be revealed in that way. Astronomers will look for that from Cerro Armazones. The combined signature of billions of plants waving their existence to the Universe. Wouldn’t you like to be there when that happens? We won’t forget watering you!