How Old are the First Planets?Quicklink submitted by Kyle McDermott Permalink
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|These heavy elements -- 'metals' in astronomer-speak -- don't just materialize out of nothing. They are the products of fusion power within stars, subsequently spewed out across the cosmos on the blast waves of supernovae, lacing the interstellar medium with the raw ingredients for planets. Is it possible that rocky planets could have formed around other stars much earlier? Are we the new kids on the block by comparison? Until recently, we didn't think so. The prevailing wisdom had been that the magic of stellar alchemy didn't produce enough useful 'star-stuff' to build terrestrial worlds until at least six or seven billion years after the Big Bang. Regardless, one thing is becoming clear: that sufficient raw materials for building terrestrial planets were available very soon after the Big Bang, raising the possibility that there could be life in the Universe far older than we.|
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