Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Weather is Wonderful Here in the Middle of the Goldilocks Zone

Photo by Kathleen Scott
When temperatures dip below freezing, as they do a few times each winter in the Texas Hill Country, my wife likes to build a fire. To her a fire means, I'm safe. I'm indoors where it's warm. What's comfortable? We may be spoiled, but for us the range is pretty narrow - from 60 F. to 85 F. - same as for coral reef. But unlike the coral, we don't die when the temps are outside these boundaries. We just turn on the air conditioning. Or build a fire.

People like to complain when the weather is too cold or too hot. But compared to other planets in "the Goldilocks Zone," climate on Earth is always splendid. The Goldilocks Zone refers to a "habitable zone," a distance from our sun that allows water to remain a liquid - which is deemed essential for life. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Too close to the sun, and the radiation causes water to boil away. Too far away from the sun, and the water is always frozen. The range of the zone depends on the size of the star.

Mars is "in the zone," but just barely. Much further from the sun, temperatures range from minus 220 degrees F. in winter to a maximum of 70 degrees F. in summer. Martian air is poisonous to humans - 95% carbon dioxide. Gravity is one-third that of Earth, and the atmosphere is very thin, so the pressure on the surface is less than 1/100 that of Earth. Plus, Mars has no magnetic field to protect you from deadly radiation of solar winds. Nasty.

Venus is also "in the zone," but again, just barely. Much closer to the sun, it's nasty in a different way. Because of the "greenhouse effect," temperatures on the surface often reach over 800 degrees F., where the air pressure is nearly 100 times that of Earth. You'd be crushed, then burned to a cinder.

So...the weather ain't so bad here on Earth, where we are smack dab in the middle of the Goldilocks Zone. We can make do and survive, even in the dead of a record winter or in the middle of a scorching drought.

If it weren't so, I wouldn't be here today to write this article....

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .

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