Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Outer Goldilocks Planet

Last week I took a more detailed look at Kepler-62-e, one of two Goldilocks planets discovered recently. Today I'll give a few thoughts to its sibling, Kepler-62-f, which is a little further from their star.
The article said 62-f might have a climate rather like Alaska. Again, I'm going to assume that means the temperate zone. And Alaska stretches from 51 to 71° North. The middle, then, is 61°, and if we move that down to 45° (the midpoint between the equator and north pole), we are moving 16°.
If you remember from last week, Barrow AK sits at 71° North, so moving its climate 16° south would put it at 55°. This would mean the Alaskan panhandle, northern Ireland and the middle of Scotland/England would have 8 months of temperatures below freezing, and its warmest month would have an average temperature of 47. Brrr!
The climate at the equator of this outer planet could be approximately what Earth has at 16° north or south. Brasilia, Brazil, is at 15 3/4° south, so I looked at its climate. The average temperature is about 69°F. The record low has been 32°F, and the record high has been 99°F.
So that sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Nicely temperate around the middle. I'm thinking, though, that it could be pretty snow/ice bound around the poles, and extending about 1/3 of the way to the equator.
The article did not offer any guesses about the ratio of water surface to land surface, and that ratio could definitely influence the climate. We could imagine whatever ratio we would like. If it's a pretty dry planet, there wouldn't be enough water to moderate the temperatures, so the cold temperatures might migrate even closer to the equator. On the other hand, with so little water available, the 'polar caps' might be only designated by temperature, or perhaps a dusting of snow, rather than the vast ice fields that Earth has.
It's a nearly-blank slate, then. We have a little sense of what the climate might be like, the rest of the details are left for us to imagine. I can work with that.

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