‘Goldilocks’ Planet Raises Question: Does Water Presume Life?

Christian Scholars Say Life Needs Much More than Water to Begin

Goldilocks

By Eric Young

A team of planet hunters announced this past week the discovery of an “Earth-sized” planet that it said could be “potentially habitable” though one side of the planet is perpetually night and always freezing cold and the other side is perpetually day and always blazing hot.

This undated handout artist rendering provided by Lynette Cook, National Science Foundation, shows a new planet, right. Astronomers have found a planet that is in the Goldilocks zone — just right for life. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too far from its sun, not too close. And it is near Earth — relatively speaking, at 120 trillion miles. It also makes scientists think that these examples of habitable planets are far more common than they thought.

"Our findings offer a very compelling case for a potentially habitable planet," said Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, who teamed up with astronomers from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Tennessee State University, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa for the search.

"The fact that we were able to detect this planet so quickly and so nearby tells us that planets like this must be really common," he added.

According to the astronomers, the planet, Gliese 581g, has a mass three to four times that of the Earth and an orbital period of just under 37 days. As the planet is tidally locked to the star it orbits, the side of the planet facing the star is believed to be almost always around 160 degrees while the side facing away is believed to be almost always around 25 degrees below zero.

Still, while the two sides alone might suggest the planet to be unable to sustain life, the team of astronomers say it is on the line between shadow and light that water – and thus life – could exist.

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