Planetary Zones, and Qualifications for Interstellar Life

Now, here’s my problem.

I’m a child of the 80s, so I was raised on Carl Sagan’s billions and billions of worlds, Star Trek, and Star Wars. So Across the Stars – a consideration of our future in space, guided by God rather than random chance or the droning will-to-power types – was unconsciously influenced by all sorts of evolutionary assumptions.

But real life isn’t like that: it’s far more fundamentally Biblical than I thought. Life on Earth is a remarkable special creation, of course: I never had a problem disbelieving the evolutionary claim that things can somehow make themselves, that information just mysteriously appears without either an Observer or an Author.

But it’s more complicated than that. Even the location of Earth, even the sun that we orbit, is tailored to permit us to live.

From Star Chemistry Constrains Habitable Zone:

Let’s tally up the factors we’ve reported so far that make the “Goldilocks Zone” more complicated than just allowing for liquid water:

  • Galactic Habitable Zone, where a star must be located (09/29/2009);
  • Circumstellar Habitable Zone, the right radius from the star where liquid water can exist (10/08/2010);
  • Continuously Habitable Zone, because too much variety can be lethal (07/21/2007);
  • Temporal Habitable Zone, because habitable zones do not last forever (10/27/2008);
  • Chemical and Thermodynamic Habitable Zone, where water can be liquid (12/30/2003);
  • Ultraviolet Habitable Zone, free from deadly radiation (08/15/2006);
  • Tidal Habitable Zone, which rules out most stars that are small (02/26/2011).
  • Stable Obliquity Habitable Zone (1/12/2012)
  • Stellar Chemistry Habitable Zone (this entry)

The list will probably continue to grow.  Although the current paper assumes billions of years of evolution, it’s a problem for evolutionists of all stripes: atheistic, deistic and theistic.  Why?  They all need billions of years.  Theistic evolutionists, for instance, would need for God to intervene and move the earth as the habitable zone evolves. If the solar system were created much more recently, this is not a problem at all.  The hopes of Carl Sagan and other astronomers of the 1980s for billions and billions of worlds filled with life are looking more simplistic with each new discovery.  The earth is looking more Biblical all the while.

And the latest entry, Planet Habitable Zone Cannot Be Too Windy

The “habitable zone” of a planet usually concerns its distance from the star such that it can support liquid water.  But what if the star fries the surface with intense stellar winds?

Deadly stellar winds could put a stop to life” reads the headline of an article on Astrobiology Magazine.  Planet Earth has a protective magnetic field that shields its inhabitants from the solar wind.  But the solar wind emitted by our star is mild compared to the intense storms of charged particles flung out by other stars.

Joe Llama from the University of St. Andrews looked at the winds that bombard one of the “hot Jupiters” (giant planets orbiting close to parent stars), named HD 189733.  He considered what such a wind would do to an earth-like planet, even if it orbited in its habitable zone:

In the case of HD 189733b, this is not a huge problem as it and other hot Jupiters are already far too hostile for life to survive. But strong stellar winds could also strip away the atmospheres of potentially habitable planets further out, something that would have dire consequences for their habitability.  Joe comments: “Imagine what the Earth would be like with its air stripped away, placed in a radiation bath. There could be numerous planets like this that in many ways resemble our world, but where life never stood a chance.

Fortunately, I don’t have to justify the random generation of alien life. I’m much more into the colonial and settlement mind frame, where our descendants will have to select which systems to scout for terraforming and habitation. So, looking at those zones from a high-tech settlement/terraforming eye of AD 5,000:

Galactic Habitable Zone: Yes, we have to go here. Even with astonishing technological growth, we won’t be able to reshape the galaxy in 3,000 years!

(But in the New Creation, given infinite lifetimes and – even more important – the beneficial guidance of God Himself – perhaps something can be done about that…)

Circumstellar Habitable Zone: Not too much of a concern: in three thousand years, we should be able to shift planets around.

Continuously Habitable Zone: This will remain an issue. I am assuming that my colonists of the far future can move planets about, and even reshape and terraform them extensively… but stars are a whole new ballgame!

Temporal Habitable Zone: This is more of a problem if you are an evolutionist, and believe in all those unprovable and unseen billions of years. If not… well, even the Moon can be colonized, with an atmosphere that can last for a million years before it dissipates. As the universe itself isn’t much older than 6,000 years or so, 1,000,000 years is a fantastic amount of time. Thow in logarithmically expanding technology…

Chemical and Thermodynamic Habitable Zone: This is one of the functions of terraforming: getting liquid water on that planet.

(Terraforming is also required for pumping up that gravity, setting up that radiation-screening magnetic field, building up the atmosphere… even minor things like fertile soil just doesn’t create itself, yet are absolutely required for a living world!)

Ultraviolet Habitable Zone: Planet movers are us!

Tidal Habitable Zone: Yeah, this causes problems even for my superscience settlers. Unless they can extensively reshape the primary star…

Stable Obliquity Habitable Zone: Tilt that world!

Stellar Chemistry Habitable Zone: My starfarers of the future are far more powerful than we are, able to build mountains and oceans… but not even they can rebuild the chemistry of a star!

And finally… the technology of those star farers didn’t come from random chance. Over 9,000 years of scientific progress would be required for them to do their thing: spread across the stars. And that doesn’t count the ‘religious’ technology that was frankly given to them from on high: from “Thou shalt not murder”… to “Love the truth, and hate falsehood”… to “God created the universe in an organized fashion, with extremely stable physical laws (and truly unchanging spiritual laws)… and wants you to understand and master it all”… to “Choose life”… to “Go Forth and Multiply”.



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