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Title: THE QUEST FOR CRADLES OF LIFE: USING THE FUNDAMENTAL METALLICITY RELATION TO HUNT FOR THE MOST HABITABLE TYPE OF GALAXY

The field of astrobiology has made huge strides in understanding the habitable zones around stars (stellar habitable zones) where life can begin, sustain its existence and evolve into complex forms. A few studies have extended this idea by modeling galactic-scale habitable zones (galactic habitable zones) for our Milky Way (MW) and specific elliptical galaxies. However, estimating the habitability for galaxies spanning a wide range of physical properties has so far remained an outstanding issue. Here, we present a “cosmobiological” framework that allows us to sift through the entire galaxy population in the local universe and answer the question, “Which type of galaxy is most likely to host complex life in the cosmos?” Interestingly, the three key astrophysical criteria governing habitability (total mass in stars, total metal mass and ongoing star formation rate) are found to be intricately linked through the “fundamental metallicity relation” as shown by Sloan Digital Sky Survey observations of more than a hundred thousand galaxies in the local universe. Using this relation we show that metal-rich, shapeless giant elliptical galaxies at least twice as massive as the MW (with a tenth of its star formation rate) can potentially host ten thousand times as many habitable (Earth-like) planets,more » making them the most probable “cradles of life” in the universe.« less
Authors:
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4]
  1. Institute for Computational Cosmology, Department of Physics, University of Durham, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE (United Kingdom)
  2. UK Centre for Astrobiology, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3HJ (United Kingdom)
  3. Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh EH9 3HJ (United Kingdom)
  4. Consortium for Fundamental Physics, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4 YB (United Kingdom)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22518900
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal Letters; Journal Volume: 810; Journal Issue: 1; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; ASTROPHYSICS; MASS; METALLICITY; MILKY WAY; PLANETS; STAR EVOLUTION; STARS; UNIVERSE