Sci-fi lovers might be disappointed: According to new research, it’s unlikely that life, let alone civilizations, evolved in the early universe. This means that there are no creatures, no races, and no monsters from the dawn of time.
According to astrophysicist Paul Mason, who presented these results at the 227th American Astronomical Meeting in Florida, the young universe was bathed in deadly cosmic rays that would have made life next to impossible.
When galaxies began to form, they were simply large clouds of gas in which the first stars were born. These first stars were huge, between 10 to 100 times the mass of the Sun (although it has been argued much higher). They burned brightly and died young, creating spectacular supernovae that enriched the universe with heavy elements like oxygen, carbon, and iron but also with high-speed particles and gamma rays.
These supernovae were also responsible for the formation of the first black holes, which merged with other black holes and started feasting on the abundant gas reservoirs of the primordial galaxies. Black holes devour a lot of material, and create powerful X-ray jets and galaxy-wide winds that are capable of snuffing out star formations in a galaxy.
Black hole-feeding frenzies and supernovae were much more common in the past, which suggested to the researcher that life only had a chance to take hold of the cosmos when the most dangerous events became rare. It's not clear when this would have happened, though.
“It has taken the universe a while for the cosmic ray density and the frequency of bad events to decrease enough for life to handle it,” Mason told Discovery News.
Not everyone agrees with the profound impact of cosmological evolution of life on Earth. Early supernovae were important to provide the universe with the elements that eventually allowed the formation of life. And while cosmic rays are dangerous to most life, there are species that can survive the high levels of radiation.
The findings are interesting and illustrate how little we still know about what are the necessary conditions for life to form in the universe.
[H/T: Discovery News]