Universe’s First Life May Have Emerged On Alien-Habitable Planets Made Of Diamond
Life in the universe is still a virtual unknown except what is known about living organisms on planet Earth, but a new study indicates that the first examples of life may have actually emerged on planets of carbon, perhaps alien planets whose structure were basically graphite or diamond. Research has shown that such worlds were not only the likeliest to form first in our universe, but would likely host organisms that were also carbon-based, thus opening up a search avenue for detecting alien life.
Phys.org reported on June 7 that Harvard researchers, working on models of the early universe, have found that carbon planets would have been fairly prevalent in a young cosmos. Therefore, working with what is known, the given that life on planet Earth is carbon-based and that life in the universe is probably widespread, by extension, early living organisms in the universe most likely formed on alien carbon-construct planets, some of which would be composed of diamond and graphite materials. The research further indicates that these alien planets might well be found by looking for certain types of stars.
Lead author of the study, Harvard University graduate student Natalie Mashian, spoke of the research.
“This work shows that even stars with a tiny fraction of the carbon in our solar system can host planets. We have good reason to believe that alien life will be carbon-based, like life on Earth, so this also bodes well for the possibility of life in the early universe.”
Theories concerning the early universe suggest that the basic elements of hydrogen and helium were prevalent and the life-enabling elements like carbon and oxygen were missing. These elements only appeared after billions of years of gaseous bonding and the formation of stars, which later became supernovae, exploded and seeded the cosmos with the heavy elements that made life in the universe possible.
Mashian teamed with her Ph.D thesis advisor, Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), to study these early universe stars, which are referred to as carbon-enhanced metal-poor, or CEMP, stars. Nowhere near as iron-rich as our own sun, these CEMP stars contain about one-hundred-thousandth of the iron and give astronomers a glimpse as to what the stellar masses of the young cosmos looked like. Still, these particular stars have more carbon than do other stars around the same age. Such an abundance of carbon would impact planet formation, contribute to accretion and the making of black planets.
“These stars are fossils from the young universe. By studying them, we can look at how planets, and possibly life in the universe, got started,” said Loeb.
So what would these carbon worlds be like? The researchers believe they would have relatively the same basic masses and be of similar size to Earth, making them difficult to differentiate from other Earth-like exoplanets. But after closer observations of their atmospheres, these planets would show carbon monoxide and methane envelopes to set them apart.
The search for such planets, say Mashian and Loeb, can be done via the transit technique. Besides, adds Mashian, “We’ll never know if they exist unless we look.”
Looking for signs of alien life is something that is still in a nascent state, but is an ever-burgeoning pursuit. Finding accurate methods with which to search for said signs of life in the universe is the key, and using the elemental make-up of the atmospheres of exoplanets has become a promising tool to discern the possible habitability and sustainability of living organisms on a given exoplanet. But not knowing exactly what to look for and just what might constitute proof of life could be problematic, which was made clear with the inclusion of some 14,000 different molecules in a compilation of a list of biosignature gases (announced in Astrobiology magazine) that could potentially signify alien life.
Still, Mashian and Loeb’s work lends credence to the study findings announced in May of scientists who calculated that the chances of technologically-advanced life having evolved first on Earth were one in 10 billion trillion. It was further calculated that there have been possibly some ten billion advanced alien civilizations that have existed in the universe prior to our own. And that is saying nothing concerning the emergence of simple alien life forms, a feat much less difficult to achieve than technological sophistication.
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