Scientist Spot 'Goldilocks Planet'

It Shares the Life-sustaining Characteristics of Planet Earth

by Sara Diaz, age 14

Astronomers have found and labeled “Goldilocks” planet. Nicknamed after the famous fairytale of a girl’s encounter with a family of three bears; A Goldilocks planet is not too hot nor too cold, not too far from its star but not too close, neither too big nor too small, and contains the elements to support life. It is considered to be “just right.”

While researchers have found over 500 planets outside our solar system, this one is the first in what we know to be a habitable zone. Scientists hope its discovery will allow us to stumble onto the answers to bigger mysteries, or even terrestrial life.

Jim Kasting from Penn State University says, “This is the first one [planet] I’m truly excited about.” He adds that the planet is a “pretty prime candidate” for supporting life.

Despite its Goldilocks status, the planet is far from perfect. It is three times Earth’s mass, and is very close to its sun, with a short year of only 37 days. This leaves one side in daylight most of the time and the other in darkness. The highest temperature could be 160 degrees Fahrenheit and the lowest, 25 degrees below zero, but at times, it could be quite comfortable compared to our conditions. Although scientists are not yet positive if water exists on the planet, conditions indicate there is water. And that could mean life can be sustained.

Despite the fact that this Goldilocks planet is approximately 120 trillion miles away, Steven Vogt of the University of California-Santa Cruz has said, “like right in our face, right next door to us.”

Scientists have calculated that one out of every 5 to 10 stars like the sun have other “Goldilocks” planets. They estimate there may be 40 billion planets that could possibly contain life.

It may well be that Earth is not so unique after all.

[Sources: Associated Press; USA Today]

What a great story! Makes me want to read more. – James TylerMadison (2012-02-03 12:10)