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Solar system 'habitable zone' redefined

Posted on Thursday, 31 January, 2013 | Comment icon 26 comments | News tip by: Render

Image credit: ESO

Scientists have updated their calculations for determining if a planet is likely to support life.

The habitable or 'Goldilocks' zone around a star is the region in which the temperature is considered 'just right' for liquid water to exist. Planet hunters have been using this concept to identify which planets around other stars may be able to support life with planets too close to their star being considered too hot and planets further away being considered too cold.

Now however the calculations used to determine this zone have been changed thanks to a team of researchers who have undertaken the task of updating the formula. The new measurements would mean that the Earth lies at the very edge of our own Sun's habitable zone and that extrasolar planets once thought to be too hot or too cold might actually be 'just right' after all.

"Also known as the Goldilocks zone, because temperatures are "just right" for life there, the habitable zone is the main tool that exoplanet hunters have to rank their finds."

  View: Full article |  Source: New Scientist

  Discuss: View comments (26)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #17 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 3 February, 2013, 11:03
I would say that the term "in fact" is a little strong. It is hypothetically possible as it is believed that such conditions could exist BUT we have not yet the absolute proof that such conditions ACTUALLY exist or that life has/can actually form there. In my opinion, this is why we need to further study the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn and fill in the gaps in our knowledge.
Comment icon #18 Posted by Harte on 4 February, 2013, 13:15
Okay, I can buy that. Fact is too strong of a word... for now. harte
Comment icon #19 Posted by Uncle Sam on 3 March, 2013, 12:27
If Earth as a planet did lose its goldilock status, I don't know if I should be worried or just shrug it off.
Comment icon #20 Posted by danielost on 3 March, 2013, 15:32
Thousands of years. That is just to get to the closest at 4.5 light years. Further we can't detect planets around a star that close.
Comment icon #21 Posted by Frank Merton on 3 March, 2013, 15:59
The technology is coming where we will be able to get spectra of planets orbiting close stars. Over time we will extend this ability outward. This is far more likely than probes to be the route we will use, since we look at light that has already spent all the time needed to get to us.
Comment icon #22 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 3 March, 2013, 16:07
As Hazzard has already correctly pointed out it would take tens of thousands of years to reach the nearest star which is 4.2 light years away. What? Not only can we detect planets around a star that close, we HAVE detected planets around a star that close, see this topic:
Comment icon #23 Posted by bison on 3 March, 2013, 16:25
The habitable zone is a rather crude estimate of a more nuanced situation. Even a little additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet farther out than this zone could make for an eminently habitable world. A planet with a thin, rather dry atmosphere, which loses heat with greater than usual efficiency might be habitable, even if nearer a star than its habitable zone.
Comment icon #24 Posted by danielost on 3 March, 2013, 17:47
I stand corrected. Last I heard the star hd to be 100 light years out.
Comment icon #25 Posted by Harte on 27 March, 2013, 3:20
You should just try the other bowl of prridge, the other chair, or the other bed. Not necessesarily in that order, depending on who is with you at the time, of course. Harte
Comment icon #26 Posted by Zeta Reticulum on 28 March, 2013, 0:01
And it used to take months of sea travel to get across the earths oceans by sail. Now we have a previously unheard of technology (jet propulsion). Another technology will come along, either by invention or by capture.

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