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Habitability Of Galactic Bulge - Good News For Foundation Fans

In his 1950's classics, the Foundation series, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov describes the difficulties of traveling from the Periphery of the galaxy to its heavily populated center. The number of stars increases dramatically; hence the difficulty:

The stars begin to cluster closely when the core of the Galaxy is penetrated. Gravitational fields begin to overlap at intensities sufficient to induce perturbations in an interstellar Jump that can not be overlooked.

Toran became of that when a Jump landed their ship in the full glare of a red giant which clutched viciously, and whose grip was loosed, then wrenched apart, only after twelve sleepless, soul-battering hours.

With charts limited in scope, and an experience not at all fully developed, either operationally or mathematically, Toran resigned himself to days of careful plotting between Jumps.

A recent paper by European astronomers indicates that it may be possible that the parts of the Galaxy that are heavily populated by stars may be heavily populated by living beings as well.

We present a new investigation of the habitability of the Milky Way bulge, that expands previous studies on the Galactic Habitable Zone. We discuss existing knowledge on the abundance of planets in the bulge, metallicity and the possible frequency of rocky planets, orbital stability and encounters, and the possibility of planets around the central supermassive black hole.

We focus on two aspects that can present substantial differences with respect to the environment in the disk: (i) the ionizing radiation environment, due to the presence of the central black hole and to the highest rate of supernovae explosions and (ii) the efficiency of putative lithopanspermia mechanism for the diffusion of life between stellar systems.

We use analytical models of the star density in the bulge to provide estimates of the rate of catastrophic events and of the diffusion timescales for life over interstellar distances...

We have also shown that lithopanspermia scenarios would be more efficient in the bulge with respect to the solar neighborhood. If indeed the spreading of life between stellar systems is possible, then the highest rate of catastrophic events might be balanced by the possibility that life can migrate quickly to safer locations. Any attempt to model the possible distribution of inhabited planets in the inner region of the galaxy should therefore take this aspect into account. This would provide an additional motivation for a more thorough investigation of the bulge habitability.

The Habitability of the Galactic Bulge

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