Giant galaxies may be home to 10,000 times as many Earthlike planets as spiral Milky Way
Hubble Heritage Team/STScI/AURA, NASA, ESA
There’s plenty of real estate in the universe, but some neighborhoods are more desirable than others.
Giant elliptical galaxies that are more than twice as massive as the Milky Way are far more likely to harbor habitable worlds, researchers suggest. These galactic giants can produce up to 10,000 times as many Earthlike planets as our galaxy, astrophysicist Pratika Dayal and colleagues report online July 16 at arXiv.org.
“This is a starting point to think about astrobiology in a more cosmological sense,” says Dayal, of Durham University in England.
Dayal and colleagues combed through data on about 140,000 nearby galaxies, looking for oases that strike the right balance for sustaining life. The potential prolificacy of ellipticals is partly due to sheer size. But the bare trickle of star formation — as low as one-tenth that of the Milky Way —