LOOKING FOR METHANOL: IDENTIFYING THE EXPANSE OF THE GALACTIC HABITABLE ZONE
AuthorSephus, Cathryn Dawn
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractDefining the expanse of the Galactic Habitable Zone (GHZ) has long been a major debate in astrobiology. The GHZ is known as the region within a galaxy where life is most likely to develop. Older definitions propose the GHZ spans a radial distance of about 9 kpc from the galactic center based on conditions such as metallicity and supernovae discharge. A recent survey of formaldehyde suggested the GHZ extends as far as 25 kpc from the galactic center based on distributions of prebiotic molecules. In order to further investigate and constrain the extent of the GHZ, we surveyed methanol molecules in 17 molecular clouds in outer regions of our galaxy. This initial survey consisted of clouds located between 13.2 and 22.6 kpc away from the galactic center. Methanol (CH3OH) is the starting ground of many prebiotic species such as sugars, amino acids, and other important biomolecules. We detected methanol in 82% of our surveyed molecular clouds, including 5 clouds with 𝑅𝐺 >18 kpc (detection rate 100%). Establishing the quantity of methanol dispersal in far regions of the Milky Way allows us to get one step closer to defining the region in our galaxy where life has the possibility to arise.
Degree ProgramHonors College
Molecular and Cellular Biology