On the planet Earth, orbiting the Sun, we are the only intelligent life. Somewhere else in the Solar system could exist microbial life, but intelligent, complex, diverse, and complex life is unlikely. Intelligent aliens, if they inhabit a different world, there are at least four light years from us. Is it a coincidence or pattern? How close do two independent intelligent civilization could be in the Universe, if you forget about interstellar travel and to assume that they have evolved in different star systems and are at least a little “life”? Globular clusters may be a high density of stars, but wouldn’t the increased density hinder habitability? From astrophysics in a dense globular cluster would be a very different picture of the Universe and the search for exoplanets.
To have a life, you need to meet many conditions, but the basic ingredients for it are in fact everywhere. Even if we restrict the search for life that is chemically similar to ours, the universe is full of possibilities.
Atoms can assemble into molecules, including organic molecules and biological processes, both on planets and in interstellar space. Perhaps life did not begin on Earth, and not on the planet.
You need to create enough heavy elements, including the solid planets, organic molecules and building blocks of life. The universe was born without them. After the Big Bang, the universe 99,9999999% consisted of hydrogen and helium. No carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, iron and in General any complex elements necessary for life. So they appeared, would be born and die, generations of stars that burned out their fuel and die, supernova, by converting the created the heavy elements in the new generation of stars. For the heaviest elements need merging neutron stars, and without these elements on Earth no life would exist and our bodies could not exist. Gears of astrophysics had to work at full capacity.
Despite the fact that the Earth was formed 9 billion years after the Big Bang, the Universe didn’t have to wait so long. We classify the stars in three groups:
- Population I: stars like the Sun, 1-2% consisting of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. This material is well crafted and creates the solar systems, the mixture of gas giants and solid planets capable of supporting life.
- Population II: this is mostly old stars. Their content of heavy elements may be of 0.001—0.1% of the sun and the worlds around them mostly diffuse gas. Heavy elements for life may be too few, and they are primitive.
- Population III: the first stars in the Universe that was not stained with heavy elements. We have not yet found, but theoretically they exist (and existed).
If you look at the first galaxy, full of stars of population II. But in our location we observed a mixture of young and old, rich and metal poor stars.
One of the most important lessons learned from the mission “Kepler”, was a system of Kepler-444. It is a star of population I (planets around), but much, much older than the Earth. Our world is 4.5 billion years old, Kepler-444 is 11.2 billion, which implies that the universe could shape the world according to the type of Land a long time ago, over 7 billion years before the formation of the Earth. Given the opportunity, and the fact that the center of our galaxy is more metal-rich stars, than in the regions, it may well be that somewhere in the Universe (and maybe even in the milky Way) there is a system with intelligent life.
So, given all that we know about where can be suited to the life of a star, how close can turn out to be two alien civilizations? Where to find them? Under what circumstances? Let’s look at the five most likely options selected by Ethan Siegel.
The same solar system
It’s just a dream. In the early days of the Solar system it is likely that Venus, Earth and Mars (and perhaps even Theia, a hypothetical planet that collided with Earth and formed the moon) — all were in suitable living conditions. They had a crust and atmosphere, full of ingredients for life, and once was liquid water on the surface. Venus and Mars at closest approach are from the Earth at 38 million and 54 million kilometers, respectively. But the system of red dwarfs (M class) planets separated by much smaller distances: about 1 million miles between potentially habitable worlds in the system of TRAPPIST-1, for example. Moon near giant worlds may be closer. If life is developing successfully under certain conditions, why wouldn’t she repeat it twice in the same place?
Within globular clusters
A globular cluster is a massive collection of hundreds of thousands of stars arranged in a sphere a few dozen light-years in radius. In the outer regions of the sphere of stars separated by light years, but in the inner, most dense aggregations of the distances between the stars might be like from the sun to the Kuiper belt. The orbits of planets in such star systems needs to be stable even in tight conditions, and given what we know about globular clusters, which is less than 11.2 billion years old as Kepler-444, they may be more suitable for life. A few astronomical units is surprisingly small distance between the two civilizations, isn’t it?
Near the galactic center
The closer you are to the center of the galaxy, the denser stars. Within the Central few light years, the density of stars is extremely high, even when compared with the cores of globular clusters. In a sense, the galactic center is extremely dense because it contains black holes, enormous concentrations of mass and zvezdoobrazovaniya that are not in globular clusters. But the problem stars that we see in the center of the milky Way, is that they are too young. Perhaps due to the instability of the region, the stars rarely live even a billion years. Despite the increased density, such stars are unlikely to have advanced civilizations. They just do not live.
In dense star clusters or spiral sleeve
How about star clusters formed in the galactic plane? The sleeves of spiral galaxies is denser than other regions, and that they, as a rule, new stars appear. Star clusters that remain from those eras often contain thousands of stars located in the region just a few light years. But then again, stars do not remain in these conditions for a long time. A typical open cluster of stars decays after a few hundred million years, and billions of years, living only a few. Stars move through the spiral sleeves constantly, including our Sun. And although the stars in the sleeve can converge to 0.1 light years, they are unlikely to be good candidates for life.
The distribution across interstellar space
So, we return to what is observed in our own neighbourhood: distance in light-years. The closer to the center of the galaxy, you can reduce this distance to that seen in an open cluster: 0,1—1 light year. But if you come closer, there is a problem that we saw is too close to the center of galaxy mergers, interactions, and other disasters that disrupt a stable environment. You can get close, but usually interstellar space does not allow. In the best case, you can wait until goes near another star, and this happens every few million years.
In General, although we do not expect intelligent alien life to be common and widespread in the Universe as well as planets and stars, each a world matching the right conditions, it is very rare. And every time you get a chance, success will be unlikely. The number of possibilities that can become reality, very limited. But at least now we know what to expect if we find the Universe a bunch of other advanced civilizations.