London: A multiverse - where our universe is only one of many - may not be as inhospitable to life as previously thought, according to a study.
Questions about whether other universes might exist as part of a larger multiverse, and if they could harbour life, are burning issues in modern cosmology, researchers said.
Now, a study led by researchers at Durham University in the UK has shown that life could potentially be common throughout the multiverse, if it exists.
The key to this, according to the study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is dark energy, a mysterious "force" that is accelerating the expansion of the universe.
Current theories of the origin of the universe predict much more dark energy in our universe than is observed.
Adding larger amounts would cause such a rapid expansion that it would dilute matter before any stars, planets or life could form, researchers said.
The multiverse theory, introduced in the 1980s, can explain the "luckily small" amount of dark energy in our universe that enabled it to host life, among many universes that could not, they said.
Using huge computer simulations of the cosmos, the new research has found that adding dark energy, up to a few hundred times the amount observed in our universe, would actually have a modest impact upon star and planet formation.
This opens up the prospect that life could be possible throughout a wider range of other universes, if they exist, the researchers said.
The simulations were produced under the EAGLE (Evolution and Assembly of GaLaxies and their Environments) project - one of the most realistic simulations of the observed universe.
"Our simulations show that even if there was much more dark energy or even very little in the universe then it would only have a minimal effect on star and planet formation, raising the prospect that life could exist throughout the multiverse," said Jaime Salcido, a postgraduate student at Durham University.
The researchers said their results were unexpected and could be problematic as they cast doubt on the ability of the theory of a multiverse to explain the observed value of dark energy.
According to the research, if we live in a multiverse, we would expect to observe much more dark energy than we do -perhaps 50 times more than we see in our universe.