The Habitability of the Universe

It’s important not to get carried away by the post-referendum doom and gloom. Abraham Loeb’s recent paper on the arXiv suggests the Universe will only be habitable for the next 10,000,000,000,000 years or so. This means that the current state of political chaos  won’t last for ever, though I wonder the paper doesn’t make it clear if Article 50 will have been triggered by the time the last star goes out.

Is life most likely to emerge at the present cosmic time near a star like the Sun? We consider the habitability of the Universe throughout cosmic history, and conservatively restrict our attention to the context of “life as we know it” and the standard cosmological model, LCDM. The habitable cosmic epoch started shortly after the first stars formed, about 30 Myr after the Big Bang, and will end about 10 Tyr from now, when all stars will die. We review the formation history of habitable planets and find that unless habitability around low mass stars is suppressed, life is most likely to exist near 0.1 solar mass stars ten trillion years from now. Spectroscopic searches for biosignatures in the atmospheres of transiting Earth-mass planets around low mass stars will determine whether present-day life is indeed premature or typical from a cosmic perspective.

3 Responses to “The Habitability of the Universe”

  1. Toffeenose Says:

    The age estimate in years is the same order of magnitude as the dollar loss in world-wide markets caused by Brexit! 😉

  2. restrict our attention to the context of “life as we know it” and the standard cosmological model, LCDM

    In this case, on long timescales all galaxies except nearby ones will have receded beyond the even horizon, so future cosmologists, unless they have access to historical data, would have a very hard time measuring the expansion of the universe or its acceleration or the presence of the cosmological constant.

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