International Journal of Astrobiology

The galactic habitable zone in barred galaxies

M. Sundin a1
a1 Department of Physics, Gothenburg University, S-412 96 Gothenburg, Sweden e-mail:

Article author query
sundin m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


One of the criteria for the concept of a galactic habitable zone (GHZ) is that the pattern speed of the stars in the GHZ should be close to the pattern speed of the spiral arms. Another criteria is that the stars in it should have a high enough metallicity. In a barred galaxy, the GHZ will be more complicated to define since the bar can change stellar orbits. Many disc galaxies, including the Milky Way, are barred galaxies. The stars in the bar move in a number of fairly complicated orbits. However, the bar will also influence the orbits of stars in the whole galaxy. Stars passing close to the bar can either gain or lose angular momentum, due to a positive or negative torque by the bar. Some stars will therefore be captured by the bar while some stars eventually may reach the escape velocity from the galaxy. The bar will hence be able to relocate stars, and stars with low or high metallicity could be found far away from their original orbits. The ordinary evolution of a bar is to grow in length out to the co-rotation radius for the pattern speed of the bar. As the galaxy ages, and the bar grows in length, the bar will influence a larger part of the galaxy. The effect of moving stars inwards or outwards is greatest just outside the bar, and this region can eventually lose a high percentage of the stars.

(Received July 6 2006)
(Accepted July 28 2006)

Key Words: barred galaxies; galactic habitable zone; Milky Way; stellar orbits transfer of angular momentum.