According to a new scientific study, on a cosmic scale, planet Earth might have been one of the first habitable planets in the known universe. Researchers believe that when our universe was formed, some 4.600 million years ago, only around eight percent of worlds that could potentially harbor life were destined to form. The same study suggests that the majority of future planets will form and evolve long after our Sun is extinguished, around 5000 million years.
Astronomers came to this conclusion after analyzing data from both Hubble and Kepler space telescopes. “Our main motivation was understanding the Earth’s place in the context of the rest of the universe,” says Peter Behroozi of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md.
“Compared to all the planets that will ever form in the universe, the Earth is actually quite early.”
According to experts, studies of galaxies has shown that 10,000 million years ago stars were born rapidly but the ‘process’ responsible for this incredible phenomenon used only a fraction of all the hydrogen and helium in the known cosmos. Today, stars are born at a slower rate and with the amount of raw material still available, it is very likely that this process will continue for a long time.
“There is enough remaining material [after the big bang] to produce even more planets in the future, in the Milky Way and beyond,” added co-investigator Molly Peeples of STScI.
Incredibly, researchers estimate that out there in the cosmos, over 1 billion worlds similar to Earth exist and a great n umber of these worlds are rocky, but when you do the math the numbers increase exponentially. If you take into account that there are around 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, the number of potentially habitable worlds, or better said similar to Earth is staggering. ET has got to be somewhere out there!?
The last star in the universe will not shut down until around 100 trillion years from now, providing a huge amount of time for the formation of countless planets that can potentially support life.
Experts say that many planets will be formed in huge galaxy clusters and dwarf galaxies where there is plenty of material left and stars, solar system and planets will continue to form for a loooooong time.
This means that our planet could very well be one of the first planets to have evolved at an early point in the life of the universe which has given mankind ‘enough’ time evolve and use powerful tools such as the Hubble Space Telescope and study the universe from a very early point of the Big Bang and through the formation of early galaxies. According to researchers this could mean that future civilizations that may come into existence could be clueless about how our universe came into existence.
Image credit: NASA – PCWALLPAPERS