Study Shows Most Earth-Like Planets Haven't Been Born Yet

Tuesday, 20 October 2015 - 1:40PM
Astrobiology
Earth
Alien Life
Tuesday, 20 October 2015 - 1:40PM
Study Shows Most Earth-Like Planets Haven't Been Born Yet

Could there be billions more Earth-like planets by the end of the universe? A new theoretical study from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) claims that Earth was one of the first habitable worlds ever to arise in our universe, and that 92% of them have yet to be born.

Opening quote
"Our main motivation was understanding the Earth's place in the context of the rest of the universe," said study author Peter Behroozi. "Compared to all the planets that will ever form in the universe, the Earth is actually quite early."
Closing quote


10 billion years ago, shortly after the Big Bang, stars were forming at a rapid rate. The process is much slower now, but all in all only a fraction of the hydrogen and helium necessary to the process of star formation has been used, and with the raw material still available, more stars and planets could form for many years to come. 

Opening quote
"There is enough remaining material [after the big bang] to produce even more planets in the future, in the Milky Way and beyond," said co-investigator Molly Peeples.
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The researchers compared this data with results from the Kepler telescope regarding Earth-like, potentially habitable planets. They found that up to one billion Earth-sized planets in their Goldilocks zone exist within the Milky Way galaxy alone, a figure that gets exponentially larger when you consider that there are 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. As a result, they concluded that only 8% of the Earth-like worlds that will exist in the universe have formed as of now.

Opening quote
"If existing gas within virialised dark matter haloes continues to collapse and form stars and planets, the Universe will form over 10 times more planets than currently exist," the authors wrote in their paper. "We show that this would imply at least a 92% chance that we are not the only civilisation the Universe will ever have, independent of arguments involving the Drake Equation."
Closing quote

This study not only indicates that intelligent life is almost certain to exist at some point in the future of the universe (if it doesn't exist already), but life may even persist after our sun burns out. Our sun is expected to die in six billion years, but Earth-like planets are expected to continue to arise around other stars, and the last star in the universe isn't expected to burn out for 100 trillion years, leaving plenty of time for another intelligent civilization to arise.

Via Astrobiology Magazine.

Science
Space
Astrobiology
Earth
Alien Life

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