Remember the children’s story of “Goldilocks & the 3 Bears”? The heroine Goldilocks has a point about things being too hot or too cold, etc., especially planets. (Well, she’s a heroine in my version; some people think she’s bad since she entered a house without an invitation, but at least she didn’t steal any money!)  Goldilocks is one of my favorite fairy tale characters because she is very good at testing things.

According to Goldilocks, for planets to support life, they must be just the right distance from their corresponding star(s). If a planet is too close to its star, it’ll be too hot; if it’s too far, it’ll be too cold. The hotter the star, the further its Goldilocks zone is. However, other things are needed for planets to support life: water, energy(from sunlight, chemicals, or heat of the planet itself), and nutrients. A hot planet would evaporate the water to steam, and a cold planet would freeze it to ice. In other words, water must be in its liquid form so that a planet can have life. Scientist believe that pockets of liquid water could exist under the surfaces of other planets, like Mars, making it conceivable that life could still survive even near sources of volcanic heat. And finally, the planet must not have poisonous gases in its atmosphere or strong vertical winds, like the jovian planets of our solar system.

Because of her point, the habitable zones of solar systems are named after Goldilocks. Even a planet is named after her! There’s also a bakery food chain in the west coast of the U.S. named after Goldilocks. So maybe she isn’t so unpopular after all. You should be nice to her, because she’s practically helping scientists determine if a planet is “just right” for supporting life.