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Q&A

Are there areas in the observable universe which surely cannot support life as we know them?

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Are there areas in the observable universe which surely cannot contain galaxies with planets that can support life as we know them?

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After 4 edits, it seems you are asking whether there are places in the universe where galaxies can form, but planets in those galaxies can't support life. It seems you want life to be impossible due to some large-scale phenomenon that effects multiple galaxies, and not due to local conditions within a galaxy.

The answer is probably "no". As far as we can tell, the laws of physics that we have discovered so far apply everywhere. There is no reason to believe that planet formation is any different in a galaxy far far away than here. The same fundamental forces that create stars, and apparently planets as nearly inevitable byproducts, should work the same everywhere.

If there is a difference, it might be in the material available for stars to form. However, that should be roughly similar for roughly similar times since the big bang. Early on, just about all the material was hydrogen. A galaxy needs to be old enough for a few cycles of star formation before enough heavy elements are available to form rocky planets, and pretty much anything other than mostly-hydrogen gas giant planets.

One loophole is that you asked about the observable universe. That means younger galaxies the farther away you look. Perhaps we can see far enough to galaxies that are too young to contain much of anything other than hydrogen. If that is the issue, though, time will change that.

The reason we can't answer this for sure is because we don't know what range of conditions life can form in. We only have one data point, so nothing to extrapolate from. There are places life could possibly exist within our own solar system, even by the requirements life here on earth has. However, we don't know yet whether there actually is life in any of these places. Even if we knew there was no extra-terrestrial life in our solar system, it doesn't mean those other places can't support life, only that it didn't end up there for whatever reason. The trigger to start life or the probability of it starting could be very different from the probability being able to support some type of life.

The vast numbers of planets argues that there are probably many niches in our own galaxy that could support life. Given the same materials and laws of physics, it's hard to imagine how this wouldn't apply elsewhere.

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