In jail for a killing he didn't commit, Edge is puzzled by the prisoner in the next cell. Where had they met before? Was it at Shiloh, or in the horror of Andersonville? This is the sequel to Killer's Breed, an earlier volume in this series. We revisit the bloody days of the Civil War and incredible scenes of cruelty and violence as our young nation splits wide open, blue armies versus gray armies, tainting the land with a river of blood.
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Life Beyond the Pale Blue Dot
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. In the United Kingdom alone, a world-beating 33 percent of respondents ranked blue above anything else, with red a runner-up at about 15 percent.
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Blue has made it into our flags and emblems, too. The One Flag in Space initiative advocates a Blue Marble flag, in which a photo of the Earth is shown on a blue backdrop.
Theory of Colours - Wikipedia
Just this May, a Swedish design student named Oskar Pernefeldt proposed an International Flag of the Planet Earth that has attracted wide media coverage, consisting of seven interlocking circles on a vivid blue background. Blue has become the default color of a living planet, a cosmic oasis, a life-harboring, fragile, and tiny jewel sitting in space. A round a star called Henry Draper , some 63 light-years from Earth, is a giant planet just a little larger than Jupiter. This gas-cloaked world takes about two Earth days to complete an orbit.
It lives incredibly close to its stellar parent. As a result, the upper planetary atmosphere is heated to over 1, degrees Fahrenheit or over degrees Celsius. It is, in other words, a truly beastly place. By stretching current astronomical instruments to their limit, scientists have been able to make a first, crude measurement of how this planet reflects starlight, and to divine its overall color.
The clouds reflect most light, but molecular hydrogen in the higher atmosphere preferentially diverts and polarizes blue wavelengths. That upper atmosphere may also contain sodium atoms that absorb red wavelengths. The upshot? The planet is another blue marble, but very unlike Earth. In neither case is it water oceans or Earth-like atmospheres producing our favorite color. The dominant blue in these hulking ice giants is caused by trace amounts of methane lurking in their upper atmospheres. Methane molecules absorb light in various bands of the red and infrared spectrum, leaving the blue reflected light alone.
The difference in blue tones between these planets is, however, still a bit of a mystery. Its stratosphere may also contain a greater number of hydrocarbons. The bottom line is that blue may correspond to sterile, inhospitable places just as much as it may reflect a planet ripe for being inhabited.
The Pale Blue Dot turns out to be a lousy signpost for life. S uppose that, instead of obsessing over colors that indicate the right conditions for life, we look for the colors of life itself? On modern Earth, the dominant light-harvesting mechanisms for life employ a set of pigments we call chlorophylls. These molecules preferentially absorb light in the blue and red, reflecting back greenish tones. On dry land, plant life can also produce great swathes of green, blending with the inorganic hues of the planet.
If we could see these signatures in Earthshine—the summed up, one-shot, reflected light of the whole planet—we might be able to tease out the signs of life, and then look for those same signs in distant planets.
But evaluating Earthshine is difficult because we seldom have the right spectrographic instruments and telescopes sitting off world. So astronomers have resorted to ingenious methods that measure Earthshine as it reflects from the night side of the moon. But it can be done, and some of the results suggest that finding the green tint of photosynthetic life from bulk Earthshine is disappointingly hard.
This pigmentation seems to contribute little to the total spectrum, although that could depend acutely on exactly which oceans and continents are bouncing light to the moon at a given moment.
Edge style is changing the game.
The dim reddish spectrum of starlight could encourage the natural selection of organisms that capture all parts of the visible spectrum: Black wins. Even on Earth, there are a variety of different pigments that can be involved in photosynthesis. Carotenoid accessory pigments can appear red, orange, or yellow. Microbial species that use both carotenoids and chlorophylls can tweak the mix depending on their environment—cranking up the yellows and oranges in conditions of harsh sunlight or high temperatures, or switching down to browns and greens in cold or wintery conditions.
Another class of accessory pigments called phycobilins can be blue or red. The colors of life can also change over geological time scales.
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In the astronomer Bill Sparks and the microbial geneticist Shil DasSarma suggested that a pigment called retinal—a form of vitamin A—might have been widely deployed by ancient photosynthesizing organisms. Retinal is simpler in molecular structure than chlorophyll, and certain species of tough halophilic salt-loving archaea use it for photosynthesis today—species that also hold up well against intense UV radiation.
The result is that retinal membranes used for photosynthesis also reflect nicely in the red and blue, producing a rich purple color. In other words, 3 billion years ago, on an Earth harboring microbial life in a largely oxygen-free atmosphere, there is a chance that the planetary surface was covered in purple. Should we be scanning the heavens for pale purple dots? Or maybe black is the right color. The overwhelming majority of stars in the Milky Way are smaller, fainter, and colder than the sun.