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The Galactic Habitable Zone


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Formal Metadata

Title The Galactic Habitable Zone
Author Guillermo Gonzalez
Publisher Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)
Release Date 2009
Language English

Content Metadata

Subject Area Physics
Abstract We propose the concept of a "Galactic Habitable Zone" (GHZ). Similar to the circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ), the GHZ is that region in a spiral galaxy where life can exist. The width of the GHZ is controlled by two factors. The inner (closest to the center of the galaxy) limit is set by threats to complex life: nearby transient sources of ionizing radiation and comet impacts. Such threats tend to increase close to the galactic center. The outer limit is imposed by galactic chemical evolution, specifically the abundance of heavier elements. Observation of stars in the Milky Way galaxy suggests that the outer reaches of a spiral galaxy may be too poor in heavy elements to allow terrestrial complex life to exist.


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