We found this at PhysOrg: Most earth-like worlds have yet to be born, according to theoretical study. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Earth came early to the party in the evolving universe. According to a new theoretical study, when our solar system was born 4.6 billion years ago only eight percent of the potentially habitable planets that will ever form in the universe existed. And, the party won’t be over when the sun burns out in another 6 billion years. The bulk of those planets — 92 percent — have yet to be born.
If true, that would help to explain the Fermi paradox. The story is that physicist Enrico Fermi, considering the present lack of any signs of alien intelligence, asked “Where is everybody?” PhysOrg says:
This conclusion [that Earth is early in the universe’s existence] is based on an assessment of data collected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the prolific planet-hunting Kepler space observatory.
NASA has an article on this — see Most Earth-Like Worlds Have Yet to Be Born, According to Theoretical Study. It’s pretty much the same thing we found in PhysOrg, so we’ll stay with them. They tell us:
“Our main motivation was understanding the Earth’s place in the context of the rest of the universe,” said study author Peter Behroozi of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, “Compared to all the planets that will ever form in the universe, the Earth is actually quite early.”
This could be very good news. If we seize the opportunity, it means we can occupy all the habitable worlds in our galaxy with relatively little competition. We previously projected that we could do this in “only” a million years — see What Are We Learning from SETI? Let’s read on:
The data show that the universe was making stars at a fast rate 10 billion years ago, but the fraction of the universe’s hydrogen and helium gas that was involved was very low. Today, star birth is happening at a much slower rate than long ago, but there is so much leftover gas available that the universe will keep cooking up stars and planets for a very long time to come. “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.
Egad — the universe will be overrun with cosmic newcomers! We continue:
Kepler’s planet survey indicates that Earth-sized planets in a star’s habitable zone, the perfect distance that could allow water to pool on the surface, are ubiquitous in our galaxy. Based on the survey, scientists predict that there should be 1 billion Earth-sized worlds in the Milky Way galaxy at present, a good portion of them presumed to be rocky. That estimate skyrockets when you include the other 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe.
This leaves plenty of opportunity for untold more Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone to arise in the future. The last star isn’t expected to burn out until 100 trillion years from now. That’s plenty of time for literally anything to happen on the planet landscape.
Time’s a-wasting — we’ve got to get going! Here’s one more excerpt:
A big advantage to our civilization arising early in the evolution of the universe is our being able to use powerful telescopes like Hubble to trace our lineage from the big bang through the early evolution of galaxies. The observational evidence for the big bang and cosmic evolution, encoded in light and other electromagnetic radiation, will be all but erased away 1 trillion years from now due to the runaway expansion of space. Any far-future civilizations that might arise will be largely clueless as to how or if the universe began and evolved.
That’s one advantage, but it’s trivial compared to the supreme advantage of occupying the galaxy before we have much competition. It’s far preferable for us to act now, so we can be the technologically superior Old Ones of the galaxy, than for us to remain on this one planet waiting for some other species to find us — and then hope that they’ll treat us benevolently. But we won’t accomplish anything if we squander our resources building silly replicas of Noah’s Ark.
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