Goldilocks and the Million Aliens

Goldilocks and the Million Aliens


Milky Way could contain billions of habitable planets like Earth, says study

The Science

If you’re a planet, then the Goldilocks zone is the place to be to support life. It’s that distance away from your host sun where the temperature is just right for liquid water, a key ingredient for life (as we know it). It’s called the “Goldilocks” zone because if you’re too close to a star, it will be too hot to have liquid water (it will boil away), and if you’re too far, then it will be too cold, and water would be frozen constantly. So this just-right band around a star where it’s not too hot or too cold is called the Goldilocks zone.

“Well,” you may ask. “What if you orbit a red dwarf or something?”

Then the Goldilocks zone will be closer to the star, in that case about half the distance that the Earth is to our sun, which is considered a yellow dwarf. Cooler, more orange stars are about half our stellar luminosity (half as much energy). A red dwarf’s luminosity is half of that. Planets have to orbit closer to these stars for their radiant energy to be strong enough to sustain water. Scientists estimate over 10 billion habitable planets may orbit red dwarf stars, the most abundant star-type in our galaxy.

Guess what happens to stars that are hotter and brighter than our own sun? Ours is by no means the brightest star in alien skies. They turn blue! And the Goldilocks zone is pushed farther away to account for the extra energy produced by the star.

Oh, to live around a blue sun.

That would be, well…


Billions of planets are expected to be in the Goldilocks zone, which could mean billions of life forms out there, from little amoebas to intelligent civilizations.

Our friend Wikipedia has a nice graphic of this distance-luminosity concept for Goldilocks zone planets:

Habitable zone relative to main star's luminosity.
Habitable zone relative to main star’s luminosity. AU stands for Astronomic Units. 1 AU is 149,597,870,700 meters (92,955,807.273 mi) – the average distance between the Earth and the Sun.

The Fiction

Researchers have isolated quantum fluctuations in the Higgs field that indicate aliens are out there, but they don’t communicate using electro-magnetic frequencies or radio waves.

“The aliens don’t use radio communication, they use quantum communication. We’ve only just discovered how to tune in and hear them, but now…” Professor Drakus looks up at the sky when he answers. “Millions of species are out there talking to each other. There’s an entire ring around the Milky Way that is densely inhabited with intelligent life forms.” He gazes at my eyes when he says, “We just sent them a message: ‘Hello.’”

His assistant runs up with a newly printed spreadsheet. Professor Drakus looks it over. “Seventeen thousand?” he sounds confused. His assistant, graduate student Brenta Thompson, leans over his shoulder and points at something. Then he finally answers, “A hundred and seventy-thousand.” His eyes twinkle.

“What?” I ask. “A hundred seventy thousand what?”

Professor Drakus, a usually stolid somber man with a slight build and jet black goatee begins to laugh giddily. “Replies,” he says. “A hundred and seventy thousand replies to our message.”

Apparently the aliens don’t get around too much though. When asked why we haven’t been visited in recent years, what with all these aliens out there and all, the aliens answer: instantaneous communication is one thing, instantaneous travel is another. Turns out the speed of light is a speed limit for everyone.

“That’s okay,” says Professor Drakus. “The thing is that we can build these receivers as easily as we can build radios and TV’s, and you can tune in like the internet. All translation instantaneous and is automatic. You could be looking at a website from a planet a thousand light years away as early as next week. You could watch a TV show from an alien civilization, completely dubbed. You could have a pen pal who lives around a blue sun.”

Sudden shouts of glee erupt from the building behind him. Brenta sneaks a few steps backward and then turns and runs for the door.

Professor Drakus bows politely. “Excuse me,” he says. “I have to get back to my radio.” He dashes off with that same giddy giggle to his step.

It turns out we’re not alone after all. Millions of minds are sharing information. The answer to clean free energy is just a click away on the galactic internet. Same with the answer to every conceivable health question.
As far as visiting an alien planet?

The nearest intelligent civilization is still a hundred light years away, so the closest we’ll come to meeting E.T. will be in an online chat-room for now.

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