Actas de congresos
Mass extinctions, galactic orbits in the solar neighborhood and the Sun: a connection?
Latin American Regional IAU Meeting, 14, 2013, Florianópolis.
Mello, G. F. Porto de
Dias, W. S.
Lepine, Jacques Raymond Daniel
Siqueira, R. K.
The orbits of the stars in the disk of the Galaxy, and their passages through the Galactic spiral arms, are a rarely mentioned factor of biosphere stability which might be important for long-term planetary climate evolution, with a possible bearing on mass extinctions. The Sun lies very near the co-rotation radius, where stars revolve around the Galaxy in the same period as the density wave perturbations of the spiral arms. Conventional wisdom generally considers that this status makes for few passages through the spiral arms. Controversy still surrounds whether time spent inside or around spiral arms is dangerous to biospheres and conducive to mass extinctions. Possible threats include giant molecular clouds disturbing the Oort comet cloud and provoking heavy bombardment; a higher exposure to cosmic rays near star forming regions triggering increased cloudiness in Earth’s atmosphere and ice ages; and the destruction of Earth’s ozone layer posed by supernova explosions. We present detailed calculations of the history of spiral arm passages for all 212 solar-type stars nearer than 20 parsecs, including the total time spent inside the spiral arms in the last 500 Myr, when the spiral arm position can be traced with good accuracy. We found that there is a large diversity of stellar orbits in the solar neighborhood, and the time fraction spent inside spiral arms can vary from a few percent to nearly half the time. The Sun, despite its proximity to the galactic co-rotation radius, has exceptionally low eccentricity and a low vertical velocity component, and therefore spends 30% of its lifetime crossing the spiral arms, more than most nearby stars. We discuss the possible implications of this fact to the long-term habitability of the Earth, and possible correlations of the Sun’s passage through the spiral arms with the five great mass extinctions of the Earth’s biosphere from the Late Ordovician to the Cretaceous-Tertiary.