No longer ‘Just Right’: The Implications of the ‘Goldilocks’ Planet Shift

Astrophysicist Guillermo Gonzalez presented the case for Earth’s uniqueness in the galaxy in his book The Privileged Planet. There he notes the concept of the Earth being in the “Goldilocks Zone,” a perfect measure of distance from the sun that made it possible for life to exist without freezing or burning up.

Well, recent studies have said that the Goldilocks Zone just shifted:

The updated model nearly boots the Earth’s orbit out of the new “Goldilocks zone,”….the Goldilocks zone is a narrow belt around a star where an orbiting planet would be warm enough to support life. Of course, the Earth doesn’t have to be in the center of the habitable zone to support life, that location is simply where the best conditions for sustaining life can be found….

According to the New Scientist, while Earth used to be right in the middle of our Sun’s habitable zone, it is now approximately a million kilometers away from the warm edge.

What does this mean? Well, a lot of people liked using the Goldilocks Zone argument to support Gonzalez’s concept, but now it’s shifted. Does this affect our idea of God?

Not really. It more affects our model of science. It’s worth noting that science never stands still and can always shift and change, causing older theories to suddenly be out-of-date and rendered useless.

So, before you start pulling out all of your science textbooks to prove to your friend that God made the planet, check the facts. Some of the supporting evidence may not be as obvious or fixed as one wants them to be.

About Christopher Hutton

Chris Hutton is a college student and Freelance Writer from Bloomington Minnesota. Since he was young, he loved books and ideas. Science was one of his favorite topics, as well as technology. It's one of the issues that has mattered to him consistently. Hence, Chris tries to bring a critical/helpful take to the modern understanding of technology. You can find Chris' home online at liter8.net, or you can tweet him via @liter8media.

  • Mason Green

    Yeah, I thought the exact same thing when that new model came out. I’m still not sure I even buy the idea that Earth is that close to the warm edge of the habitable zone, to be honest. I wonder if there might be a subtle agenda at play here (i. e. “if the earth is a only a hair’s-breath away from being too warm to sustain life, we’d better not let the planet get any warmer, or else, capiche?”)

    To be honest, I’d actually argue that Earth is probably closer to the cold edge of the habitable zone than the warm one. A planet a little bit closer to the sun than the Earth is might not be able to sustain much life (except for extremophiles) at the equator, but the polar regions should be temperate rather than frozen, and life could be plentiful there: that is, “Greenland would actually be green”. If Earth had been located halfway between its actual location and Venus I suspect it would be much more hospitable to life than it would be if it had been halfway to Mars. And Venus is actually more Earth-like than Mars is (for one thing, Venus’ atmosphere 55 km up has similar temperature and pressure to Earth’s atmosphere at the surface, making floating cities on Venus a real possibility for future space colonists). Most of the “problems” with Venus stem not from its proximity to the sun but rather from its lack of a magnetic field and its slow rotation rate (its atmosphere wouldn’t be so thick if it rotated faster, and its lack of magnetism is one reason why it doesn’t have much of the hydrogen that is necessary for anything organic or water-based).

    So I definitely am not convinced that Penn State’s new model of the habitable zone is correct at all. And I suspect in another decade or so, the accepted model of what makes a planet habitable may change yet again as even more evidence becomes available.


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