Our place in the universe is a conundrum — life on Earth evolved to create a technologically-savvy race that is now looking for other technologically-savvy intelligences populating our galaxy. But there’s a problem; it looks like humanity is the only “intelligent” species in our little corner of the universe — what gives?
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This question forms the basis of the Fermi Paradox: given the age of the universe and the apparent high probability of life evolving on other planets orbiting other stars, where are all the smart aliens?
ANALYSIS: Has Kepler Discovered an Alien Megastructure?
According to a new study based on data collected by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, it might be that Earth (and all life on it) is an early bloomer. By extension, the logical progression from this new study is that we’re not hearing from advanced alien civilizations because, in short, the universe hasn’t had the time to spawn many more habitable worlds.
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The study, which focuses purely on the likelihood of the evolution of habitable worlds (and not speculation of alien intelligence, the Fermi Paradox implication is my own), finds that when our planet was born from our young sun’s protoplanetary disk some 4.6 billion years ago, it was born into an era when only “8 percent of the potentially habitable planets that will ever form in the universe existed.” This means that the universe has 92 percent to go until it runs out of the necessary material to produce the stars that go on to produce planets, some of which will be small and rocky and orbit in just the right location for life (as we know it) to thrive.
“Our main motivation was understanding the Earth’s place in the context of the rest of the universe,” said 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.”
Hubble has shown astronomers that young galaxies were churning out stars at a fast rate some 10 billion years ago. However, the quantity of hydrogen and helium involved in stellar production was low compared with the amount of these star-forming gases that exist today.