New study claims that the vast majority of Earth-like worlds do not yet exist
A newly-published NASA and Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)study is asserting that roughly 92 percent of habitable worlds have yet to be created. The research draws on data collectedby NASA's Hubble and Kepler space telescopes, with the aim of placingthe creation of Earth, and the potential for advanced life in thegreater context of the Universe.
Observations fromKepler and other space telescopes suggest that Earth-like planetssitting in a star's habitable zone are actuallysurprisingly common, with around a billion such worlds thought toexist in our galaxy alone. This has led to the foundation ofinstitutions and large-scale initiatives investing heavily in thesearch for intelligent extraterrestrial life.
However, according tothe study, the majority of habitable worlds on which intelligentcivilizations will exist simply haven't been born yet. Scientistsestimate that the last star won't burn out for around 100 trillionyears, meaning that there is still a vast amount of time for newstars and Earth-like planets to be created. This raises theunpleasant thought that our civilization may have simply been borntoo early, but the authors of the paper convey a more positivemessage.
A paper on the study asserts that before its end, the Universe will create roughly 10times as many planets than there are now, and that this proliferationindicates that there is at least a 92 percent chance that ours willnot be the only advanced civilization to exist in the universe beforeits end.
Accordingto the paper, future Earth-like planets are more likely to be createdin enormous galaxy clusters and dwarf galaxies that have retainedstores of star creating materials. So whether we find them or not,its a comforting statistic.
Whilstwe are most likely not going to be around to observe the bonanza ofhabitable worlds that will come into being, the timing of ourcivilization is ideally suited to understanding the creation andevolution of the early Universe.
The time frame in which our planet was created paired with our scientific capabilities meanswe are ideally placed to observe evidence of the cataclysmic creationof the cosmos and its evolutionary path, by studying ancient light andelectromagnetic radiation.
Incontrast, a civilization that evolves a trillion years on anotherEarth-like planet, and reaches the same, or even a higher level ofscientific ability as our own would be unable to gaze back to thebeginnings of the Universe as we have, because the clues that wereavailable to us would have long since faded.
The paper is available online on the Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.