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!
Most 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 right 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?