Universe Guide

What is the Goldilocks Zone?

The Goldilocks Zone name is taken from the children's story, Goldilocks and the three Bears. It is a story of a young blonde hair girl called Goldilocks, Gold being a clue in the name. Goldilocks breaks into a house where the occupants (three bears) have gone for a walk whilst their porridge cools down. Amongst the things that she does is to taste the porridge, the father bear's porridge is too hot, the mothers is too cold and the child's is just right. She does other things but its the porridge part that is only of interest here.

The Goldilocks Zone is the zone around a star where the temperature of the planet is not too hot and not too cold for life to exist. Fortunately, the Earth is situated in the so-called Goldilocks Zone, where the temperature is just right for life to exist.

Not only is Earth in the Goldilocks Zone but Mars and Venus . The problem with the other two planets is that Venus has a toxic atmosphere, one that is unsuitable for life. Mars is too small and doesn't have the right atmosphere. Mars is believed to have an hospitable atmosphere with water running overland but its ability to keep the environment faded over time. If Mars had been bigger, things might have turned out differently. At the moment, all we can hope for is bacterial life to say we are not alone.

If we take the Trappist-1 star system for example, the Goldilocks Zone being the area in green. Trappist-1 chosen as it has a large number of planets in orbit around it. The star cannot be seen without the aid of a telescope as it is too dim. Trappist-1 is located in the Zodiac constellation of Aquarius. The picture was created using N.A.S.A.'s Eyes on Exoplanets application which is free to download and use.

Trappist-1 Planets with Goldilocks Zone

You can see from the picture that there are three planets, all of which are in the Goldilocks Zone, all are possible of hosting life. The life might not look like anything on Earth but it'll be life. The life might be intelligent or not, we don't know. Trappist-H is too cold for life.

The smaller a star is, the closer to the star the Goldilocks zone will be located. The larger the star, the further out from the star the Goldilocks Zone needs to be located to be the right temperature.

If you download the application I mentioned earlier and select 'Gam Leo' (Algieba), when you pull out from the star, you will see the planet orbiting nearby. If you select "compare with our solar system", the planet orbit roughly between the same size orbit of Earth and Mars. Algieba is a little bit larger than our Sun and therefore if our planet orbited at the same distance, it would be too hot for life to cope like us to cope.

Getting back to Gam Leo b planet, you might think the planet is in the Goldilocks Zone but its not, turn on Goldilocks Zone and you'll have to pull out a bit further to find where the Goldilocks Zone is. You'd probably find that the Goldilocks Zone is out past Saturn by rough estimates, showing solar system and the Goldilocks Zone at the same time isn't possible.

A planet has been found in orbit round Proxima Centauri and it was believed that the planet was in the Goldilocks Zone. Unfortunately, although it was in the right zone, the star was a Flare Star . Flares from the star which would have destroyed the atmosphere and sanitised the planet.

The larger the star, the larger the Goldilocks Zone is and therefore more planets could have life. Also, the further the planets must be from the star to support life. The smaller the star, the smaller the Goldilocks zone is and the closer to the star the zone is.

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