Scientists Say: Goldilocks zone

This is the area around a star where water could exist as a liquid


This is what an artist thinks Kepler-186f may look like. It’s a planet orbiting star Kepler-186, and scientists say it sits in its star’s Goldilocks zone.

NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Goldilocks zone (noun, “GOAL-dee-locks ZONE”)

This is a term that astronomers use to describe a region around a star where conditions are right for water to be liquid — and possibly support life. If a planet is too far away from its star, any water would be permanently frozen. If a planet is too close, water would boil away immediately. But is the planet is in just the right place, water could be a liquid.

That doesn’t mean a planet in the zone would be a nice place to live, though. There may not be any water there to begin with. And even if there is, there may not be any oxygen to breathe. Still, a planet in the Goldilocks zone is our best bet in the search for life outside our solar system.

In a sentence

The star Trappist-1 has seven Earth-sized planets, and three of them are in the Goldilocks zone.  

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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