Age may only be a number but when it comes to cosmic terms, it’s important for certain rules to be obeyed. What we are saying is that it should not be possible for complex creatures to be older than planets or to have a rocky planet that predates the stars. It should even be impossible to have a star that’s older than the observable Universe.
Scientists have declared that the Universe itself is 13.8 billion years old. We have arrived at a pretty accurate estimate of the Universe's age after the Big Bang. Many different sources have been based upon the figure. Nothing should have existed even before the formation of the Universe.
When scientists observed the stars within the Milky Way, they found so many that have existed for 12 billion years. A few even predated the entire galaxy itself, specifically 300 million years subsequent to the Big Bang. One find that alarmed us is HD 140283, a particular star that seems to have existed for 14.5 billion years. Of course, a star that's older than the Universe is impossible. But, there has to be an explanation for this discrepancy.
It’s possible that we got the Universe' age wrong. Scientists arrived at the figure from the Universe’s precision measurements put on the largest scale.
They looked at a slew of features such as:
- Cosmic microwave background's temperature and density imperfections, left over after the event of the Big Bang;
- The clustering of galaxies and stars at present;
- The history of galactic evolution and star formation;
- And many other sources.
From there, we know that the Universe is made up of 27% dark matter, 68% dark energy, 0.01% radiation, 0.1% neutrinos, and 4.9% normal matter. It's also around 14 billion years old. There may be uncertainty on the figure but only at 100 million years or even less. This means that even if it's plausible that the known Universe is slightly younger or older, it’s definitely improbable to be older than 14 billion years.
That leaves us to a single reasonable possibility: maybe we got the ages wrong! Well, regardless of the reason, it's definitely an exciting time for scientists. Stars should place lower limits when it comes to their age as the Universe should be older. That’s if we follow fundamental rules.
Whether we learn brand new things about stars, how they evolve, live, and die or whether there’s a factor that’s responsible for all of the misunderstandings, one thing is for sure: we have the opportunity to further improve the scientific understanding we have for the observable Universe.
That’s the greatest situation that any curious individual would and could hope for. What may seem now as impossible may prove to be a concept that’s even more valuable – the excellent chance of pushing our knowledge on how the entire Universe works in unknown frontiers.