Do galaxies have habitable zones?

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Anyone who's intrigued by outer space would likely have heard about how the Earth is quite lucky to be sitting in our solar system's habitable zone, otherwise known as "The Goldilocks Zone."

Curious where this nickname came from?

RELATED: Gorgeous new Milky Way image maps our galaxy's dust

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Gorgeous new Milky Way image maps our galaxy's dust
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Gorgeous new Milky Way image maps our galaxy's dust

A spectacular new image of the Milky Way has been released to mark the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL). The APEX telescope in Chile has mapped the full area of the Galactic Plane visible from the southern hemisphere for the first time at submillimetre wavelengths — between infrared light and radio waves — and in finer detail than recent space-based surveys. The pioneering 12-metre APEX telescope allows astronomers to study the cold Universe: gas and dust only a few tens of degrees above absolute zero.

(Photo via ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/ESA/Planck)

The southern plane of the Milky Way from the ATLASGAL survey.

(Photo via ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/ESA/Planck)

The southern plane of the Milky Way from the ATLASGAL survey (annotated).

(Photo via ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/ESA/Planck)

Comparison of the central part of the Milky Way at different wavelengths.

(Photo via ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/ESA/Planck)

Comparison of the central part of the Milky Way at different wavelengths (annotated).

(Photo via ESO/APEX/ATLASGAL consortium/NASA/GLIMPSE consortium/ESA/Planck)

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Earth's proximity to the sun isn't too close or too far, which helps prevent the planet from getting too hot or too cold, respectively. We're in the zone that's just right.

As we search for aliens, we look for other planets that are in their system's habitable zones as it would be relative to each individual star.

Thinking even broader, it forces scientists to question: do galaxies have a habitable zone?

It turns out: they do!

Consider The Milky Way. If Earth was too close to the center, life would be bombarded by the radiation emitted by all the tightly packed stars and wouldn't survive.

Any further out would also be bad news, since that is the party of the galaxy where stars are still forming and blasting out a ton of radiation.

This all serves to prove that there may actually be a "sweet spot" that is considered a habitable zone. Though the zone may appear small when looking at a map, it is actually quite large when considering the scale of the planets and the distance between.

We're lucky to be snuggled in this perfect spot, since apparently everywhere else has radiation lurking to kill whatever it can.

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