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92 Percent of Possible Earth Twins Have Yet to Be Born

Our young universe promises trillions of more planets to come

Planets forming around a young star (artist’s vision) (David A. Hardy/www.astroart.org via NASA)
smithsonian.com

13.8 billion years ago, in a cacophonous event, our universe was born. 

Yet new planets are still condensing from swirling clouds of hydrogen and helium and filling the sparking horizons. With increasingly bigger, and better telescopes, astronomers have even identified a handful of planets that could be ripe for potential life. But according a recent study, 92 percent of possible Earth twins have yet to be born, reports Sid Perkins for Science

This surprising statement comes from two researchers based at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, Peter Behroozi and Molly S. Peeples. To guess the universe's planetary potential​, the duo developed a model that uses known information about the ethos—like how planets form, the age of observed galaxies, and estimates for the amount of matter in the universe. 

The result? The universe has potential to form more than ten times the number of planets than exist today, according to their study recently published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

"Our main motivation was understanding the Earth's place in the context of the rest of the universe," Behroozi says in a press release. Earth is a fairly young planet in astronomical time, but on a larger scale, this research suggests that it will eventually be the older sibling of the universe. 

Since the beginning of our universe, the rate of planet formation has slowed overtime. But there’s still plenty of material for the birth of many more planets and stars. According to the model, the last star in the universe shouldn’t burn out until 100 trillion years in the future, writes Pete Spotts for The Christian Science Monitor

As those many, many millennia churn on, chances become increasingly better that life will arise somewhere other than Earth (if it hasn’t already).

The universe is already full of wondrous planets—waterworlds, diamond planets and molten infernos. But these discoveries are only a small fraction of what is out there, an an even smaller one of what is yet to come.

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