The Goldilocks Zone

What were the chances of life appearing on planet earth? Astronomers, astrobiologists, and cosmologists have tried to answer this question. In doing so, they’ve come up with what is called “The Goldilocks Zone.” And it is quite fascinating!

goldilocks-the-three-bears-ladybird-book-well-loved-tales-series-606d-gloss-hardback-4271-pMost of us remember Goldilocks. She was the little girl in the fairy tale who broke into the cottage of the three bears while they were gone and tried out their porridge, chairs, and beds. Papa Bear’s porridge was too hot. Mama Bear’s porridge was too cold. But Baby Bear’s porridge was just right. And the story goes on. Environmental conditions for life to appear on earth were just right too. But what were the chances of those conditions occurring?

First of all, the sun has to be in the right spot. If earth were any closer to the sun, the sun’s radiation would burn through molecules attempting to form life. Any further away from the sun and there would not have been enough of the heavier elements to support life. The earth is situated in the “Goldilocks Zone,” because it is just right for sustaining life. (Astronomer Donald Brownlee and paleontologist Peter Ward coined the phrase “Goldilocks Zone.”)


But there’s more to it than the sun. Our solar system has a Goldilocks planet: Jupiter which, because of its immensity and gravity, clears out most of the asteroids that would otherwise crash into earth. We have a Goldilocks moon too which helps stabilize our orbit. And lucky for us we have a Goldilocks orbit, one that is circular and not elliptical. An elliptical orbit would make the climate too variable for life.

Planet earth is also a Goldilocks size. It’s just big enough to have the gravity to hold in our atmosphere but not so big that our atmosphere would be flattened against the surface. Says writer Mark Yates: “All told, the chances of these multiple Goldilocks Zones aligning in just the planet earthjpgright way is not a million-to-one or a billion-to-one, but something much higher.” Cosmologists can’t agree on the odds, but they do agree that “the odds are remote at best and near impossible at worst.”

When we contemplate the grandeur of the universe, the singular beauty of planet earth, we can’t help but stand in awe of creation and our Creator. Says Yates: “As we venerate life, admire it, and stand in awe of its engineering and aesthetics, we must take every opportunity to preserve it and share its blessings.” How do we do this? In countless ways:

* by taking time regularly to connect with the beauty and mystery of the natural world

* by caring for our children and grandchildren

* by promoting policies that protect the less fortunate

* by maintaining a garden

* by respecting the elderly

* by recyling our paper, glass, cans, cardboard

* by using a compost pile

* by speaking respectfully to all other people

* by appreciating and caring for animals

* by caring for the ill

* by never taking life for granted.

Goldilocks was a lucky little girl. She found porridge, a chair, and a bed exactly to her liking. And the bears turned out to be friendly too! But her luck pales in comparison to our good fortune, the good fortune of living in the Goldilocks Zone and sharing in the incredible gift we call LIFE!


What do you think and feel about all of this?

How do you show your gratitude for the gift of life?






No Comments

  1. Kathleen Magiera on May 26, 2014 at 7:22 am

    What a wonderful reflection on the Goldilocks Zone! I like it. It show just how much God is in all creation.

    As I grow older, I try to treasure each moment with my family. Life is so precious and at times so fleeting. It is good remember the gift of family and how we are connected to each other.


  2. Julie Grote on May 26, 2014 at 9:17 am

    We surely do need this reminder with all of our deadly carbon imprint these days. The poor are suffering the most already from this. Thanks! Sr. Kathleen for your creative insights.

  3. Janet on May 26, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Thank you, Melannie! I have never heard of the Goldilocks Zone. I think I would rename it the “God-I-Love Zone”!

  4. Josita on May 26, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Thank you so much for this reflection. I never heard that expression, but it truly shows the awesomeness and power of God’s love and concern for us!

    I love to spend time enjoying and savoring the beauty of God’s diverse gifts to us…in all of creation: the sky; the ocean; flowers and trees; animals and birds and of course, God’s people. The list can go on and on…… Josita

  5. Mary Schneider on May 26, 2014 at 10:45 am

    What a beautiful, and easily understood, reflection on God’s great creation. Another tool to focus my mind and heart on my Creator. Thank you, Sr. Melannie!

  6. Dorothy Janofsky on May 26, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Thank you, Sr Melanie for a beautiful reflection. I had not heard of the “Goldilocks Zone”, but it certainly makes me aware of God’s goodness to us.

    • Patty Russo on May 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      Hi Sister Melanie,

      What a wonderful and humble reflection! Thank you!
      After reading this, I had two reactions, one of joy in being in God’s wonderful world, and the second is remembering in gratitude how deeply God cares for all.

      Blessings in his embrace!

  7. Alfredo Jesús Rios Sánchez on May 27, 2014 at 12:48 am

    The cosmos greateness is the Creator word to say, I am the Lord, there is no other. Isaíah 45:6

  8. Patricia M on May 27, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Sister, thank you for such an inspiring and fascinating reflection. This Memorial weekend sang praise to the Creator with the beautiful weather. As I sat on my sun porch I enjoyed watching the humming birds flit by, practically running into each other. The robin sitting on the fence with a worm ready to feed her babies, the bumble bees working feverishly, and the flowers lifting their faces to the Creator. I truly found God in this beautiful setting and thanked Him for the gifts that we only have to open our eyes and hearts to see and appreciate.

  9. Melannie Svoboda SND on May 27, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Thank you to all of you who responded. And thank you for the ways you try to show your appreciation for the precious gift of life. Your examples were very inspiring! And thank you for the prayers for last week’s retreat at the Mercy Center in St. Louis. I met many wonderful women who came to pray and reflect for the week! Melannie

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