The Galactic Habitable Zone and the Age Distribution of Complex Life in the Milky Way

Charles H. Lineweaver*, Yeshe Fenner, Brad K. Gibson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

279 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We modeled the evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy to trace the distribution in space and time of four prerequisites for complex life: the presence of a host star, enough heavy elements to form terrestrial planets, sufficient time for biological evolution, and an environment free of life-extinguishing supernovae. We identified the Galactic habitable zone (GHZ) as an annular region between 7 and 9 kiloparsecs from the Galactic center that widens with time and is composed of stars that formed between 8 and 4 billion years ago. This GHZ yields an age distribution for the complex life that may inhabit our Galaxy. We found that 75% of the stars in the GHZ are older than the Sun.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-62
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume303
Issue number5654
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes

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