The search for life in the universe is a huge task – but now astronomers can erase from the list of promising targets a cluster of Omega Centauri stars.
Omega Centauri – a densely packed cluster of stars not far from us – can not contain significant amounts of potentially inhabited planets, according to a study conducted by a group of astronomers led by Stephen Kane of the University of California, Riverside, USA. In search of potentially inhabited planets, this cluster of stars, located at a distance of 16,000 light years and containing about 10 million stars, at first glance seems a very promising goal. The cluster includes a large number of red dwarfs, in the planetary systems of which potentially inhabited planets can be located. These planets should be located closer to the parent star than the Earth to the Sun in order to be potentially inhabited.
However, after a more detailed analysis of cluster stars, Kane’s team came to the conclusion that such compact planetary systems can not exist in the core of the cluster of Omega Centauri stars. The fact is that this cluster is very tightly packed, and the distances between cluster stars, which are on average 0.16 light years, are too small for stars to move for a long time without powerful gravitational interactions – so, on average, stars of this cluster meet each other friend with a frequency of about once a million years. Such meetings gravitationally destabilize the planetary systems of stars, so the probability of finding an inhabited planet in them becomes extremely small, the authors summarize.
The study is published in the journal Astrophysical Journal.