The Habitability of Large Elliptical Galaxies

©NASA

Elliptical Galaxy ESO 325-G004

Based on numbers of stars, supernova rates, and metallicity, a prior study (Dayal et al. 2015) concluded that large elliptical galaxies contain up to 10,000 times more habitable planets than the Milky Way and are thus the "cradles of life".

Using the results of their model and taking into account galactic number distributions and supernova rates I argue here that this result constitutes a violation of the Principle of Mediocrity as applied to the reference class of all extant technological species.

Assuming that we are a typical technological species in the attribute of inhabiting a relatively large disk-dominated galaxy, I outline two hypotheses that could significantly limit the habitability of large elliptical galaxies: (1) massive galactic sterilization events associated with quasar/AGN activity and starburst supernovae that occurred when the antecedents of today's large elliptical galaxies were much more compact; and (2) the probability of habitable planet formation in large elliptical galaxies may be small since a disproportionately larger number of gaseous planets are expected to form as a result of the generally higher metallicity in large elliptical galaxies. Consequently, fewer habitable planets will accrete if the gaseous planets inward migrations are sufficiently slow.

The sterilization events of Hypothesis (1) occurred at earlier epochs (z ≥ 1) and so they must be effectively permanent, implying two possible scenarios regarding the origin and evolution of life. In connection with one of these scenarios, independent applications of the Principle of Mediocrity suggest that M-dwarf stars are not significant hosts of technological life.

Daniel P. Whitmire
(Submitted on 30 Mar 2020)
Comments: Accepted MNRAS
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA)
Cite as: arXiv:2003.13643 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2003.13643v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Daniel Whitmire Ph.D.
[v1] Mon, 30 Mar 2020 17:21:49 UTC (13 KB)
https://arxiv.org/abs/2003.13643
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