Santa Cruz Finds New Livable Planet

Researchers find "Goldilocks" zone

By Scott Budman
|  Thursday, Sep 30, 2010  |  Updated 11:17 AM PDT
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LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 02: The Griffith Observatory overlooks Los Angeles from atop the Hollywood Hills.

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"Not too hot, not too cold."

That's how researchers are describing what they call "The Goldilocks Zone," a place in space where life can live. They're using the term today to illustrate how a newly discovered planet, called Gliese 581g, could possibly harbor life.  The scientists, who include Steven Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, are referring to their discovery as "super-Earth," a place some 20 light-years away that just might be livable.

In an interview with the National Science Foundation, Vogt describes the planet as the first "that really has the right conditions for water to exist in liquid form on its surface."  If water can exist, they say, life can exist.  If life can exist, well, that gives more credence to the idea that we're not alone.  Yes, we may be 20 light-years away from our living neighbors, but they're out there.  And, if you think about it, the Milky Way Galaxy is something like 100,000 light-years in diameter, right?  So 581g is practically our neighbor down the street.

As for the Santa Cruz angle to all this, it's pretty cool.  This is a school famous for its near the water location, which brings to mind surfers (not to mention the ever-present reputation of hemp clothing and "hate-free" zones).  Now, they are deservably proud of their new reputation as planet finders.  Lots of people think Santa Cruz is the perfect climate.  Now, it's the place that just might have found the "perfect" planet.

Scott wants to visit.  He's on Twitter @scottbudman

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