The evolution of complex life in the universe has, heretofore, thought to have been quite a long slog.
But in a paper submitted to the journal Astrobiology, theoretical cosmologist Avi Loeb argues that some form of complex life may have arisen within the first billion years of our universe’s existence.
Loeb, Chair of the Astronomy Department at Harvard, says that some fraction of the cosmos’ first so-called Population III stars may have produced supernovae that seeded the early cosmos with large amounts of metals, like iron. Such heavy elements, Loeb notes, are crucial when forming terrestrial planets like our own.
These first stars — thought to on average have been some 100 times more massive than our sun — likely had hydrogen-burning lifetimes of only 3 million years. Yet Loeb says a follow-on population of Population II stars that formed within these very first stars’ metal-rich vicinity, could have spawned earthlike planets, some fraction of which may have harbored complex life.