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Do goldilocks planets deserve the hype?

Updated on October 26, 2012

getting to know the goldilocks planets

dreams about goldilocks planets

Almost all religions' literature of the world speak highly of angels from skies having higher worlds, giving strong indications that our ancestors firmly believed existence of earthlike planets. The pitch increased since 1990s when the first exoplanet was discovered by Hubble telescope. The excitement in scientific community finally led to launch of Kepler mission exclusively to find out earthlike planets in Goldilocks zone, i.e., a habitable orbit around its parent star.

Kepler mission had several exclusive mission objectives in focus:

Confirm how many planets are orbiting in a comfort zone around their star, i.e., neither too cold nor too warm zones.

Confirm how many such habitable planets are really habitable., rocky, water-drowned or gaseous.

Confirm the planetary geophysics, topography, atmospheric composition, etc.

Estimate as to how many habitable planets could be there in our milky way galaxy.

Based on the location, confirm planet specific characteristics

Now, about 2500+ planets were discovered in a small fraction of our milky way galaxy (just 4%)revealing the abundance of exoplanets in our milky way galaxy. The mission also assigned itself to the task of finding the habitability of exoplanets by their size (at least 50% to 150% of the size of the earth) and whether water medium based life in its tissue composition could be sustained. Of the 2500+ planets, about 80 planets only were found in the habitable zones around their stars.

It is presumed that water is the best medium to sustain life as infinite varieties of of molecules can be produced in such medium compared to methane to ethane cycle where hardly 2000 varieties of molecules only could be sustained.

The Kepler Mission also has the task of the %age of billions of stars in milky way galaxy supporting such goldilocks planets in habitable zones.

How a goldilocks planet is discovered:

Every planet has to transit its star, i.e., orbiting its star. The star will undergo small falls in its brightness during such transit. Subsequently the distance from the star is determined by the time taken to revolve the star, mass of the star. A careful study reveals the temperature, atmospheric composition, etc., of the star.

Kepler mission has been hugely successful in finding so many earthlike planets. The mission could unravel planets with double or multiple suns, massive super earth. The limitation is that if the star’s size is disproportionately high, the goldilocks planet will present itself too meekly. If the orbital distance of a goldilocks planet is too long, it may take incredibly long wait period to discover the goldilocks planet. NASA is now launching Finesse mission to further conclude on that star. One new mission being launched : Finesse has the duel advantage of measuring the goldilocks planet when it is in direct interference view and the planet entered the orbit beyond its star! The geological and atmospheric composition is instantly reviewed.

Goldilocks planets may not really deserve the hype surrounding their discovery given the astronomical distances the nearest one is located in Alpha centauri star requiring a travelling distance of 79000 human years. But the man’s quest to know whether he has company in the cosmos will be rewarded by revelation of composition, inhabitation i.e., alien life, etc., of a goldilocks planet.

goldilocks planets in habitable zone


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