Friday, November 25, 2016

I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know that...

Is Life on Earth Premature from a Cosmic Perspective?: Life as we know it first became possible about 30 million years after the Big Bang, when the first stars seeded the cosmos with the necessary elements like carbon and oxygen. Life will end 10 trillion years from now when the last stars fade away and die. Loeb and his colleagues considered the relative likelihood of life between those two boundaries.

The dominant factor proved to be the lifetimes of stars. The higher a star’s mass, the shorter its lifetime. Stars larger than about three times the sun’s mass will expire before life has a chance to evolve.

Conversely, the smallest stars weigh less than 10 percent as much as the Sun. They will glow for 10 trillion years, giving life ample time to emerge on any planets they host. As a result, the probability of life grows over time. In fact, chances of life are 1000 times higher in the distant future than now.
I am going to tell this to the kids over dinner tonight.   My daughter will respond "when are getting me a new mobile phone?"  and my son will say "hurry up, you have to drive me to the party."  But I try...

Update:  here's another brief explanation about the extraordinary longevity of red dwarf stars:
The smallest stars are the red dwarfs, these start at 50% the mass of the Sun, and can be as small as 7.5% the mass of the Sun. A red dwarf with only 10% the mass of the Sun will emit 1/10,000th the amount of energy given off by the Sun. Furthermore, red dwarfs lack radiative zones around their cores. Instead, the convective zone of the star comes right down to the cure. This means that the core of the star is continuously mixed up, and the helium ash is carried away to prevent it from building up. Red dwarf stars use up all their hydrogen, not just the stuff in the core. It’s believed that the smaller red dwarf stars will live for 10 trillion years or more. 

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