The Almighty Quasar — Destroyer of Worlds

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Observationell astrofysik

Abstract: In the study of habitability of terrestrial exoplanets, both life-supporting conditions and the prevalence of transient life-threatening events need to be considered. One type of hazardous effect that has so far not received much attention is the thermal effect of a nearby active galactic nucleus (AGN), or in this particular case, the class of the AGN known as a quasar. In this work we investigate the thermal effect from a quasar by calculating the number of habitable terrestrial planets (HTP) in an elliptical or bulge-dominated galaxy, that goes extinct when exposed to the quasar radiation in a limited wavelength range. This is done by approximations and modelling along with pre-existing formulas and data from earlier publications. As a result, the influence by a quasar during the time span of quasar activity will have a less significant impact on the habitability in solar-type stellar systems than expected. Assuming tQSO = 108 yrs of quasar activity, results in the number of affected HTP, ≈ 1 × 105, 9 × 105 and 4 × 108 for isotropic spherical radiation and ≈ 1 × 106, 8 × 106 and 3 × 109 for a double-conical radiation. In terms of stellar mass fraction, ≈ 1.3%, 1.0%, 0.4% for isotropic radiation and ≈ 12.8%, 9.5%, 3.8% for conical, is affected. The results of this work are hoped to provide a rough estimation of the thermal impacts of a quasar on the habitability as well as to point out the most important parameters when considering this model.

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