Astrophys. J., 859, 171-171 (2018/June-1)
The productivity of oxygenic photosynthesis around cool, M dwarf stars.
LEHMER O.R., CATLING D.C., PARENTEAU M.N. and HOEHLER T.M.
Abstract (from CDS):
In the search for life around cool stars, the presence of atmospheric oxygen is a prominent biosignature, as it may indicate oxygenic photosynthesis (OP) on the planetary surface. On Earth, most oxygenic photosynthesizing organisms (OPOs) use photons between 400 and 750 nm, which have sufficient energy to drive the photosynthetic reaction that generates O2 from H2O and CO2. OPOs around cool stars may evolve similar biological machinery capable of producing oxygen from water. However, in the habitable zones (HZs) of the coolest M dwarf stars, the flux of 400-750 nm photons may be just a few percent that of Earth's. We show that the reduced flux of 400-750 nm photons around M dwarf stars could result in Earth-like planets being growth limited by light, unlike the terrestrial biosphere, which is limited by nutrient availability. We consider stars with photospheric temperatures between 2300 and 4200 K and show that such light-limited worlds could occur at the outer edge of the HZ around TRAPPIST-1-like stars. We find that even if OP can use photons longer than 750 nm, there would still be insufficient energy to sustain the Earth's extant biosphere throughout the HZ of the coolest stars. This is because such stars emit largely in the infrared and near-infrared, which provide sufficient energy to make the planet habitable, but limits the energy available for OP. TRAPPIST-1f and g may fall into this category. Biospheres on such planets, potentially limited by photon availability, may generate small biogenic signals, which could be difficult for future observations to detect.
© 2018. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
astrobiology - planets and satellites: atmospheres - planets and satellites: terrestrial planets
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