Goldilocks Planets: A Quick Explanation

Greetings all!

Today it’s going to be a very concise post because Fluid Dynamics reports are exhausting.

So, Goldilocks planets – easily the coolest, most self-explanatory term I know of in astrophysics.

We all know the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the incredibly picky young girl who must have a bite of everyone’s porridge (complaining that it’s too hot, or too cold) before deciding which one is ‘just right‘. Funnily enough, this is the perfect example for explaining the Circumstellar Habitable Zone (CHZ) – colloquially known as the Goldilocks Zone.

Simply put, the Goldilocks Zone is the distance from a star within which a planet may be able to sustain carbon-based life. Specifically, it focuses on temperatures and atmospheric conditions which allow for liquid water on the planet’s surface. If the planet is too close to the sun, the water will vaporize (too hot!), if it’s too far away, it will solidify (too cold!).

Every year the Kepler Telescope locates a Goldilocks planet or two and astrophysicists exclaim that it may be ‘the one‘ which harbours alien life (which, according to the Drake Equation, is within the realm of possibility). However, of the handful of Goldilocks planets NASA has located, few if any would have the correct conditions to sustain life. The universe is a big, complicated place after all (understatement of the day).

In our solar system Venus, Mars and Earth are all Goldilocks planets. We know Earth can sustain all kinds of life. Mars has potential, especially if NASA’s Mars Mission is anything to go by (side-note: I loved The Martian movie and novel). Venus… Well, Venus is our Solar Systems hottest planet, has an atmospheric pressure 92 times that of Earth’s and is primarily made up of poisonous gasses (which is why it is often put in its own ‘Venus Zone’ within the CHZ). But, who is to say aliens wouldn’t love it?

Hope you find this as interesting as I do! (This didn’t end up being as concise as I thought it would…) Let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

 

 

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