Monday, August 29, 2016

When has the Galaxy Actually Been Habitable?

The evolution of galaxy habitability


Gobat et al


We combine a semi-analytic model of galaxy evolution with constraints on circumstellar habitable zones and the distribution of terrestrial planets to probe the suitability of galaxies of different mass and type to host habitable planets, as well as its evolution with time. We find that the fraction of stars with terrestrial planets in their habitable zone ("habitability") depends only weakly on galaxy mass, with a maximum around 4e10 Msun. We estimate that 0.7% of all stars in Milky Way type galaxies to host a terrestrial planet within their habitable zone, consistent with the value derived from Kepler observations. On the other hand, the habitability of passive galaxies is slightly but systematically higher, unless we assume an unrealistically high sensitivity of planets to supernovae. We find that the overall habitability of galaxies has not changed significantly in the last ~8 Gyr, with most of the habitable planets in local disk galaxies having formed ~1.5 Gyr before our own solar system. Finally, we expect that ~1.4e9 planets similar to present-day Earth have existed so far in our galaxy.

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