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I'm just curious if it is possible for a plant to survive on a large asteroid. Some say no, some say it depends.

With the scenario of an asteroid at about 1 AU from the Sun, receiving a similar amount of sunlight to Earth, and with wet soil or something similar.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you mean an existing earth plant or some hypothetical alien plant? And do you mean just survive (as in a seed might survive for some time) or actually grow there? $\endgroup$ – SpaceBread Sep 3 '19 at 9:49
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    $\begingroup$ Exposure to space environment without a protective atmosphere is a big problem. Earth plants also use the atmosphere for CO2 (carbon to build itself) and O2 (for respiration). Asteroids are not large enough to have atmospheres, so it's going to be a really big challenge! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Sep 3 '19 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ Wet soil would be frozen soil or soil with water that boiled off very quickly. $\endgroup$ – Magic Octopus Urn Sep 5 '19 at 16:35
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It might depend on what qualifies as a plant. A thin film of rugged mold for example . . . just maybe.

The tricky part is that asteroids are too small to retain an atmosphere and you need an atmosphere to have liquid water which plants and all life (so far as we know) needs. I don't want to dismiss the possibility that there's underground water and some kind of very sturdy life that can eek out a living on the airless surface of an asteroid, but I wouldn't bet money on it. I think it's unlikely, maybe unlikely multiplied by about 5 orders of magnitude. It's very close to impossible.

That said, Ceres is an asteroid and Ceres may have a liquid underwater ocean. Life in an underwater ocean is thought to be possible.

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Its really fascinating to think about life on a foreign celestial bodies. But for a plant to survive on a given asteroid will not only depend on wet soil , water and minerals but also on the atmospheric conditions and locality of that plant. Even if plant is provided by water,minerals and Co2 , it will be difficult for it to tolerate the energetic electromagnetic rays(like UV rays) coming form the star(Sun) on that asteroid as asteroids dont have atmospheric shields against such rays like we have on Earth(ozone). Moreover asteroids are highly prone to cosmic collisions. So under such a rough environmental it will be very difficult for a plant to survive. But again it will be difficult but may be possible. There are many such asteroids having deep water bodies burried inside them just like oceans on earth where plants can survive. So these plants will be like water plants. Inside the water , plant will get relatively better atmosphere as water can absorb most of the electromagnetic rays. Hence according to me, it may not be possible for a plant to survive on an asteroid but in an asteroid (under water) provided that asteroid is not taking part in any collision.

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It is certainly not possible for a plant to survive on any of our asteroids, even on Ceres the conditions are completely unsuitable (moulds, by the way, are fungi, not plants, and couldn't survive unless there were plants present). The other obstacle to plants emerging on a Ceres-sized asteroid is that Ceres never had suitable conditions for life to emerge.

I think Pluto or Eris is about as large as an asteroid could get and still qualify as an asteroid, and there probably are solar systems with asteroids that size within the habitable zone, in which case it is conceivable that life might arise on them. Unfortunately they would be likely to end up like Mars, which once had conditions suitable for life, but lost most of its atmosphere over the course of billions of years. Micro-organisms might survive on such asteroids, but nothing more advanced.

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