Hey J, I’ve spanked the monkey since I last posted here, and can now talk to you again without being overcome with lust... Anyways, I read what you’ve posted since I last talked to you and, as always, I do have a few questions for you:
The discovery of all of these additional Jupiter-mass planets, along with the discovery of the subsurface ocean underneath the icy surface of Enceladus, seems to increase the possibility of life out there. In your opinion, have the odds improved massively because of these findings, or are they pretty much unaffected by these new discoveries? I remember reading about the Drake equation, which can be used to estimate the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Surely these findings will affect the parameters within that equation, and therefore our current estimates of exactly how much life there could be out there (if there is any at all)?
It definitely increases the odds of life out there. Exomoons are more likely to be habitable than all of these gas giants we're finding everywhere, and like many other things, JWST can answer this questions for us, it is capable of discovering exomoons. Before the discovery of these exoplanets and habitable moons, all we had were good estimates. All of these discoveries have given us realistic parameters to work with instead of just making estimates in the dark, we can use the data we have to get more accurate answers, and with all the data we've gathered so far, the odds of ET life are looking very good. And these odds are based on evidence rather than guesstimates, that's the really exciting thing about it.
The Drake equation deals with giving us an estimate on how many intelligent civilizations might be out there, not just microbial life. And yes, we can add these exomoons in the ne
parameter which is the number of bodies in a solar system where life can exist, the value used in the original equation is 2, with the exomoons in mind we can set the value to 3 or even 4. In the original equation, this has a major impact, the original equation predicts that there are around 10 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, by changing the value of ne
from 2 to 4, it predicts that there might be 20 intelligent civilizations out there.
The addition of these exomoons increases the possibility microbial life tremendously, but not intelligent alien life predicted by the Drake equation.
My second question to you is regarding the JWST you talk about. I had no idea that it would outperform the Hubble so extensively. I wonder, is there a physical limit to how close we could possibly go to the Big Bang with these devices? If not with the JWST, maybe in the future we can get really close to the birth of our universe? Or will aspects of the early universe, such as the rapid inflation that occurred in its early life, prevent us from ever getting too close to the really big questions? Then again, will there even be anything to see beyond the formation of the first stars, because everything will simply be too small to detect before these stars came along?
Yes, there is something we can see before the formation of the first stars, it's the radiation from the Big Bang, it looks like this.
Five minutes after the Big Bang, the universe was very hot, dense, filled with plasma and radiation (photons). It took the universe 380,000 years to expand and cool enough to form the first neutral atoms and it took those neutral atoms 50 million years to form the first stars. When the stable neutral atoms formed, the universe was big and cool enough to allow the photons left over from the Big Bang to uniformly spread out in space. We can see these photons from the Big Bang, it's called the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), but it's also the furthest we can see. The CMB acts like a curtain which prevents us from seeing any further, before it the universe is completely opaque. We've learnt so much from it about the structure and the conditions of the early universe, it's virtually a photograph of the Big Bang taken minutes after it was born. You can kinda see it, too. A small part of the static you see on the TV is a signal from the CMB.