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Early 'habitable epoch' universe proposed


Posted on Sunday, 2 March, 2014 | Comment icon 19 comments

Was the universe once one giant habitable zone ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
One Harvard astronomer believes that we may have fundamentally misunderstood our place in the universe.
As astronomers identify more and more worlds orbiting distant stars, the habitability of those worlds is becoming an increasingly hot topic. Most extrasolar planets are turning out to be either too near or too far from their parent star to support life with only a handful being located in the habitable zone where liquid water can exist.

But is this the way things have always been ? In a recent astrobiology paper, Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb has put forward the idea that around 10 to 20 million years after the Big Bang the universe was warm enough thanks to the Cosmic Background Radiation that the entire cosmos would have been a viable habitable zone.

Dubbed 'the habitable epoch', this early period could have seen the universe teeming with primitive life forms.

"For a long time, we’ve had this preconception that life is here on Earth, but the universe is dead," said Loeb. "But maybe we should be thinking of this as a living universe. We may be relative latecomers to the game."

Source: Slate.com | Comments (19)

Tags: Universe, Life

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #10 Posted by Hawkin on 3 March, 2014, 5:11
That is only true to a degree (for example the Earth is warmer than it's distance from the Sun would suggest because of the greenhouse effect of our atmosphere), however radiation received from a star drops off according to an inverse square law (double the distance you receive only 1/4 of the light and heat, treble the distance and you receive only 1/9 of the light and heat and so on) so as you move further away the amount of available light and heat drops dramatically, meaning that (if there are no other heat sources) distance from the star is a very important factor. No amount of greenhouse... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by coolguy on 3 March, 2014, 6:07
There is other life out there no dout a bout it. We are not the only life forms
Comment icon #12 Posted by taniwha on 3 March, 2014, 8:47
I think this habitable epoch theory echoes the gestation and incubation periods within ancestral geneaology chants, other wise known as creation myths. Science can define by any other model the genesis of life, but the concept of a universal mother is no further from the truth. It is humbling to acknowledge our ancestors and their ancient wisdom.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Leonardo on 3 March, 2014, 14:44
Most scientists would try not to use the word "belief" in this situation, as belief requires no evidence. Instead they would say that, given the current state of knowledge, the probability is high that life is common in the universe. However that is a little irrelevant as you seem to be missing the point of the original post. The hypothesis has nothing to do with the probability of life NOW, rather it introduces the idea that the universe as habitable much sooner after the big bang than was previously believed. Which is quite irrelevant to the fact that most, if not all, the elements necessary... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by spacecowboy342 on 3 March, 2014, 17:34
It seems that there is this notion that we base lifeforms out there by our environment and what it takes for our existence. That they can't exist unless they have oxygen, water and proper temps. Example, creatures of the deep oceans. Tube worms and certain types of shrimp inhabit around volcanic vents that are very hot and spew toxins that would kill us but yet these creatures thrive. It could be possible lifeforms on other worlds that are harsh for us would be ideal for them. Yeah but breathing oxygen was what allowed complex intelligent life to come about
Comment icon #15 Posted by Einsteinium on 3 March, 2014, 18:17
I don't believe this. Why? Because there were hardly any heavy elements during this early stage of the universe. The heavy elements were all created by successive generations of stars. Which means there would only be gas giants and massive stars back this early, no rocky planets, barely any carbon let alone heavier elements than that. How can life evolve and exist, even primitive life, without heavy elements? All life as we know it needs carbon. Never-mind oxygen and nitrogen which are heavier still than carbon.
Comment icon #16 Posted by regeneratia on 4 March, 2014, 20:00
But if we are doubling our scientific knowledge base every three to five years, maybe in less time than that, just how truthful is our thoughts on what life is? How caught off guard will the scientists be if they find life without our perhaps immature standards of what life is? We have bacteria that exist in places that we never thought could survive at those temps. So we had to rearrange just what bacteria can and cannot withstand. If the objective is to look for another place, another planet, for humans to litter and taint, then of course, their standards should be accepted. No, we base our ... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by spacecowboy342 on 4 March, 2014, 20:14
We aren't doubling our scientific knowledge every 5 years. The laws of nature remain how they have always been. We don't reinvent the wheel every time new science is discovered but new discoveries build on old knowledge. We have a pretty good idea how chemistry works
Comment icon #18 Posted by spud the mackem on 4 March, 2014, 20:45
Perhaps species are/have evolved breathing other gases than Oxygen.We breathe all kinds of gases and live,especially in big cities during "rush" hour.They might thrive on what would kill us.
Comment icon #19 Posted by spacecowboy342 on 4 March, 2014, 21:05
There are reasons hydrocarbons and oxygen work for this while other things don't


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