Space

New study claims that the vast majority of Earth-like worlds do not yet exist

New study claims that the vast...
Artist's impression of some of the Earth-like worlds yet to come into creation
Artist's impression of some of the Earth-like worlds yet to come into creation
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Artist's impression of some of the Earth-like worlds yet to come into creation
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Artist's impression of some of the Earth-like worlds yet to come into creation

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.

Source: NASA

13 comments
ErstO
So if only 8 percent of the habitable worlds have been created, then that may add a mathematical wrinkle in the Fermi Paradox
Ichabod Ebenezer
We are, in fact, that alien race that conquers the stars while other civilizations are in their infancy?
SpectreX
Or all the possible habitable worlds all currently have alien life living in them. It probably only looks barren for now because we are looking at light rays reflected from that planet that have been coming our way centuries ago. Perhaps, there are many civilizations like ours thinking they're alone when we are all here. Since the sun is about 4.22 light years away from us. Imagine how far back into the past we are seeing those other "habitable" planets.
Jacob Shepley
SpectreX, the sun is not 4.22 light years away; it is 8.3 light *minutes* away. you're probably thinking of Alpha Centauri which is 4.37 light years away
PatrickDugan
Of course, the degenerate/black-hole era heath death vision of the future depends on a model of cosmology that hasn't yet been fully proven, and may be attributable to negative temperatures in inter-galactic voids distorting light to red-shift, which seems equally as plausible as dark energy expanding the universe.
SpectreX
Oh, my bad. Thanks for the correction Jacob.
Mudd
That means we only have to wait 200 billion years to find out if their right.
owlbeyou
Because we are finite beings with a beginning and an end, people are preoccupied with a 13.5 billion year universe that will end in 100 trillion more... instead of accepting that it has always been in existence.
If theoretically 92% of habitable worlds have yet to be created, that still means there are gazillions that are already in existence, in any number of stages of development.
We can't possibly be alone, and it's conceivable (to me) that beings that can travel through vast distances of space have a reality of time where a thousand of our years are just a blip of half a second...or less. I am becoming more convinced that we are someone's farm project/experiment, and therefore their property. They keep watch on us, and every now and then they come by to see what the silly primitive earthlings are doing, hoping we haven't annihilated ourselves yet.
the.other.will
No, it's not really an answer to the Fermi Paradox. The evidence suggests there's probably lots of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way. Earth-like includes old enough for the evolution of intelligent life. Anything happening in other galaxies is irrelevant. They're all too far away to detect other civilizations.
ArtistDe
It seems the scientist of today knows all, when in fact their findings will keep changing until someone finally gets it right.