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Science
THE GOLDILOCKS PLANET
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Wednesday 31 August 2005 9.00-9.30pm

Vatican astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno meets the scientists looking for life elsewhere in the cosmos and hoping to find Earth's twin - a planet not too hot like Venus, or too cold like Mars, but just right to sustain life - a Goldilocks Planet in another solar system.

The Goldilocks Planet
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This summer, some of the worlds leading experts in astrobiology will meet the Vatican's astronomers at the Pope's summer palace outside Rome to discuss the latest developments in the hunt for Goldilocks, and to consider the problems first contact may bring. At roughly the same time delegates (writers, actors, fans and scientists) at the World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow will be gathering with their own particular take on the implications of extra-terrestrial life.

Ten years ago the first "solar-system-like" planet was discovered, but it was too close to it's parent-star and so too hot to sustain life. Now more and more candidates for extra-terrestrial life are being found, and the disparate worlds of sci-fi fan and astro-physicist are in danger of collision. So if the arguments about first contact and non-intervention have been rehearsed in film, in literature and on television, is it really possible that William Shatner once spoke of the secrets of the cosmos?

The picturesque setting of Castel Gandolfo, nestling on the lip of a burnt-out volcano in the mountains south of Rome, is the setting for the gathering of scientists. And for Christians in particular, astrobiology has a particularly bizarre set of questions. How does their understanding of the salvation offered by Jesus Christ change when alien life is discovered? To put it crudely, if God sent us his only son, who, if anyone, did he send to 51 Pegasi, an earth-like planet many light years away?
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