17 December 2020

Red Dwarf stars and the Long Range Future of Life in the Universe

Posted this as an answer to a question, but it might conceivably be of interest to some people on its own.

Alien civilizations are very unlikely to evolve on a planet orbiting a red dwarf, for several reasons. First, the habitable zone is small and so close to the star, which by nature is prone to bright flares that can increase the brightness, including in dangerous ionizing wavelengths, by orders of magnitude within short periods of time. These flares are likely to make life very precarious if not impossible on any planets in the zone. Further, planets found this close to such stars will generally be tidally locked, with one face always facing the star. A third problem is that the peak radiation from such stars is in the infrared, so it isn't even clear that photosynthesis could successfully evolve and function in a biosphere on such a planet.
Interestingly, however, there is no real reason that life originating from outside such a system (and these stars constitute about 70% of all stars) could not be transported there artificially, and provided with habitats that would use the light of the star as an energy source. I happen to believe that the Age of Life is just beginning in the universe at large, and the role of intelligent species in assisting the seeding of life in places where it (including its intelligent forms) can exist but is unlikely to spontaneously evolve, will be quite simply incalculably important for the long range future of life in the universe in general.
Since red dwarfs typically have lifetimes in the hundreds of billions to a trillion years, these stars are likely to be the sites of surviving life for far longer than the universe has existed hitherto.

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