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So after the DPS I’ve decided that perhaps I should start a “No, Seriously?”  theme for the times where I just cock my head and squint at people either over science or sometimes the way our scientific organizations are run. The DPS provided me many occasions to do that very thing, but I thought I’d start with something that went public before the DPS.

So the “No, Seriously” part 1 goes to the purported detection of the planet Gliese 581g reported to be the “Goldilocks planet” in many major press stories (like this one from NPR).

No, seriously, this as a Goldilocks planet? I think not.

For one- this planet is so close to it’s star that it’s tidally locked. Unlike the moon, this planet really would have a dark side, that stays dark all the freaking time. The definition of Goldilocks seems to be predicated on the sub-solar temperature- ie the temperature at the equator at the noon meridian, so that still doesn’t mean water would freeze and one wouldn’t freeze their anatomy off on the dark side of the planet.

For two- this planet is orbiting an M dwarf star. Admittedly the reason this is being released is that Earth-like planets if they exist are easier to find around M dwarf stars if it is a “Goldilocks planet” because their orbits would be very close to the star and thus their periods would be short enough you ought to get multiple orbits over a few years of study. But this star is an M dwarf! M dwarf stars are low mass and this star is found in a region with low mass star formation. What’s the problem with this you ask? The problem is Aluminum-26. Aluminum-26 (Al-26) is an isotope only found as a product of supernovae in regions of high mass star formation. Studies of our own solar system indicate that Al-26 was present in the proto-solar nebula and is responsible for the differentiation (ie segregation of minerals and melting) in planetesimals (ie asteroids) and planets (ie Earth). We like differentiation- it gives us a molten core and a dynamo which then in turn gives the Earth a magnetosphere which protects the surface of our planet from getting blasted by the solar wind.

But you know. . . if you want to live on a planet that’s tidally locked and probably has no magnetosphere so you can get blasted charged particles, please be my guest. Somehow though I doubt Goldilocks would find the planet and declare it to be just right.

July 2018
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