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The Goldilocks zone is the distance from the sun where liquid water can exist.  Not too hot, and not too cold.  It was previously thought that planets could only have liquid water (and therefore life) if they were in the goldilocks zone, but new theories suggest that if the planet is large enough and has the right kind of make-up, it could produce enough internal heat to have liquid water no matter how far from the sun it is.

In honour of this, I’m dedicating the next few Fridays to The Goldilocks Zone.


Goldie was bored.  She’d played solitaire about fifty times this week alone, and she’d been out on this journey for three weeks.  Not for the first time, she cursed the company for being too cheap to spring for a decent conversation bot.  There were only so many times you could talk to one of the E-560’s before you just had to lock them away to prevent yourself from ripping off your own arm and beating them with it.

The ET-790 would have been a much better model.

The computer displayed bouncing cards and fireworks.  She’d won again.  She didn’t even remember playing this game.  It was definitely time for a change of activity.

Mentally, Goldie flicked through the options.  More computer games, except that the ship didn’t have enough processing power spare for any of the really interesting ones, so that was out.  Read a book.  Well, sure, but she’d read a lot recently.  Scan the surroundings.  There was nothing there.  There was never anything there.  She was in the middle of nowhere.  Still, she was supposed to run the scans every day, and she’d skipped more than a couple of days recently.

She pushed her chair over to the navigation console, taking a childish delight in riding it as it went.  A touch of a few buttons and she was presented with a map of the surrounding star systems.  Blah, blah, bl… wait.  That wasn’t there last time she’d run the scan.

She zoomed in.  It was very close by, and she couldn’t understand why it hadn’t shown up in the previous scans.  The system consisted of a star and seven planets.  Bizarrely, all of the planets were in the same orbit, spinning lazily around the star at the exact same speed.  Was that even possible?

Goldie felt a shiver of excitement in the depths of her stomach. This was why she had gone into space exploration.  To find something new, to be the first to see things and discover their possibilities.

She set a new course on the computer.

The system was close, astronomically speaking, but it would still take most of the rest of the day to arrive there.  Now that she had a firm destination there was no way she could sit still, so she decided to check over the equipment.  The E-560 was very good at maintainance, but she never quite trusted it to be perfect.


Five hours later, she was happy.  Her checks were finished, and she was about to enter orbit around the first of the seven planets.  There was nothing stopping her from going out exploring right now.  Nothing that is, except the stupid E-560, which was currently standing in front of the door to the control room.

Without the control room, she couldn’t land the ship, and without landing she would have a hard time exploring the planet.

“Move.  That’s a direct order.”

The bot stayed still.

“My scans indicate extreme exhaustion.  You will sleep.”

“I’m fine.”

“You will sleep.”

Goldie threw her hands in the air.  This was like talking to a brick wall.  She knew from previous experience that trying to get past the bot would result in nothing more than a bruised ego.  She was just going to have to get some sleep and go exploring in the morning.

Apparently there are planets orbiting binary star systems.  In the past we’ve found single planets orbiting two stars, but it was thought that more than one planet would see the gravitational forces throwing them either into the stars, out of the system, or into each other.  Kepler-47, in the constellation of Cygnus, has two planets – and one of them is in the habitable zone, where liquid water can exist.

It’s probably a gas giant, but Prof William Welsh, from San Diego State University, said:

“Kepler-47c is not likely to harbour life, but if it had large moons, those would be very interesting worlds.”

Now I’m wondering what a day would be like on one of those moons.  Imagine, you are on a moon, orbiting a planet, orbiting two suns.  What would you see and experience as the day progressed?  Obviously you can’t answer that properly without knowing the lengths of the orbits involved.  My astrophysics is not good enough to figure it out even knowing the orbits.

On the other hand, is it important?  How many books have you read in which the protagonist noticed what phase the moon was in?  (Apart from books about werewolves, they don’t count!)  Unless the fact that there are two suns is central to the plot, why should it matter?  The occasional comment about the suns rising or the planet setting, and that should be enough.

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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