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A range of theoretical habitable zones with stars of different mass. Earth is the only Goldilocks planet in our solar system (shown at center, not to scale).

"Goldilocks planet" is a colloquial term for a planet that falls within a star's habitable zone, often specifically used for planets close to the size of Earth.[1][2] The name comes from the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in which a little girl chooses from sets of three items, ignoring the ones that are too extreme (large or small, hot or cold, etc.), and settling on the one in the middle, which is "just right". Likewise, a planet following this Goldilocks Principle is one that is neither too close nor too far from a star to rule out life (as humans understand it) on the planet.

Goldilocks planets are of key interest to researchers looking either for existing (and possibly intelligent) life or for future homes for the human race. The Drake equation, which attempts to estimate the likelihood of non-terrestrial intelligent life, incorporates a factor (ne) for the average number of life-supporting planets in a star system with planets. The discovery of extrasolar Goldilocks planets helps to refine estimates for this figure. Very low estimates would contribute to the Rare Earth hypothesis, which posits that a series of extremely unlikely events and conditions led to the rise of life on Earth. High estimates would reinforce the Copernican mediocrity principle, in that large numbers of Goldilocks planets would imply that Earth is not especially exceptional.

Finding Earth-sized Goldilocks planets is a key part of the Kepler Mission, which uses a space telescope (launched on 7 March 2009 UTC) to survey and compile the characteristics of habitable-zone planets.[3]

Although the extrasolar planet 70 Virginis b was initially nicknamed "Goldilocks" because it was thought to be within the star's habitable zone, it is now believed to be far too warm to be "just right" for life, and is thus not a Goldilocks planet.[4] Gliese 581 d is currently believed to be a rocky planet lying within the habitable zone of its star.

References

  1. ^ Muir, Hazel (25 April 2007). "'Goldilocks' planet may be just right for life". New Scientist. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11710. Retrieved 2009-04-02.  
  2. ^ "The Goldilocks Planet". BBC Radio 4. 31 August 2005. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/goldilocksplanet.shtml. Retrieved 2009-04-02.  
  3. ^ David Koch; Alan Gould (March 2009). "Overview of the Kepler Mission". NASA. http://www.kepler.arc.nasa.gov/about. Retrieved 2009-04-02.  
  4. ^ "70 Virginis b". Extrasolar Planet Guide. Extrasolar.net. http://www.extrasolar.net/planettour.asp?PlanetID=22. Retrieved 2009-04-02.  
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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Etymology

From children's story, "not too hot, not too cold".

Noun

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Wikipedia

Goldilocks planet

  1. Colloquial term used to describe a planet with conditions suitable for life.

Simple English

For the specific Goldilocks planet, see 70 Virginis b


A Goldilocks planet is a planet that can support living organisms because it is in a star's habitable zone. This term is used to refer to planets around the size of the Earth. The name comes from the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears, as Goldilocks, the main character, chooses the item that is 'just right' out of three.


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