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Earth 2

  • GCSE
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Data work
Topic: Solar System

Science changes fast in this area! We are developing a new activity for this context, as part of upd8 Crucial. Find out more. The original activity is no longer available.

Astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, a world which could have water running on its surface. Through analysing data and applying the Goldilocks Theory, students will justify whether or not they believe the 'new' planet to be Earth-like; students are guided in developing a scientific argument rather than being asked to learn new 'facts'.

14-16 How Science Works:
Data, evidence, theories and explanations
1a How scientific data can be analysed to inform theories
1b How interpretation of data, using creative thought, provides evidence to test ideas and develop theories
1c How explanations of many phenomena can be developed using scientific theories, models and ideas.

Published: 3rd May 2007
Reviews & Comments: 7

Learning objectives

Students will:
• Understand the Goldilocks Zone theory, and recognise that it was developed by scientists using data and creative thought.
• Realise that scientific theories – such as the Goldilocks Zone theory – are used to make predictions.

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

14 – 16
Environment, Earth and Universe
8c The solar system is part of the universe, which has changed since its origin
and continues to show long-term changes.

For details of links to GCSE specifications, please see downloadable teachers' notes.

Running the activity

Display page 1 to set the scene and introduce the challenge. If possible, show the pod-cast from the first BBC web link below.

Display page 2, which explains the Goldilocks Zone theory. This idea is simple to grasp and is an excellent example of a creative scientific process which continues to change over time and is applied to examples beyond those known.

Pages 3 and 4 form the main body of the lesson. Page 3 poses questions; page 4 provides data to help students develop arguments in answer to the questions. The task is best tackled in pairs or small groups.

Possible answers:
• Planet is probably rocky like Earth – its density is even greater than those of the rocky planets in our Solar System
• Planet's gravity is probably high enough to hold onto its atmosphere, but living things would need to evolve in order to overcome the likely high gravitational force there (small creatures, strong exoskeletons etc). NB – planets' surface gravities depend on size as well as mass
• The data indicates the planet is likely to be in the Goldilocks Zone – students will need to extrapolate the two lines of the graph back to (0,0) to determine this

Extra information to accompany page 2
In the past 30 years our knowledge of life in extreme environments has exploded. Scientists have found microbes in nuclear reactors, microbes that love acid, microbes that swim in boiling-hot water. The limits of the Goldilocks Zone are being ever stretched – its bigger than we thought!

Kinaesthetic option
Get students to print the 'ruler scales' onto acetate and colour in their own 'zones of likely survival'.

News links

The Goldilocks Zone theory. Includes MP3 audio to download.
The possibility of life on the 'new' planet
BBC news
The original news story from the BBC, including a video
Daily Mail newspaper
Good graphics on this site!
Astronomy magazine
More on the Goldilocks Zone theory

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

How science work

Dec 22nd, 2009

4 Star

Al of my downloads have provided me with the first hand experience of planing how to incorporate contemporary issues in science and at the same time offering students the opportunity to see how different aspects of HSW. Some i have tried so far and students were nt only challenged using thier knowledge in unfamiliar context but they were able to use and develop the various skills involved. Fantastic! Teaching science is highly motivating for me now. Thank you.

Reviewer: brian caesar

Is there another Earth out there?

Apr 15th, 2008

4 Star

We enjoyed this lesson. A nice topical way of getting yr10 to interpret data in tables. Great!

Reviewer: Jane James

Earth 2

Jan 11th, 2008

5 Star

My yr10 loved the Goldilocks theory and the 'real ' data. It is the first time they have not complained about a data handling task, which was challenging enough for their high ability.

Reviewer: Tracy Hill


Sep 24th, 2007

5 Star

This is a nice activity, the is clear in its presnetation and well-structured. Both of my sets appreciated its freshness (used in the week after the discovery was announced). The only drawbacks with able children were the slight repetition and over-obvious conclusion towards the end.

Reviewer: Rob Tanner

Earth 2 Sep 2007

Sep 9th, 2007

4 Star

I used this activity across a range of groups from high achievers to low ability. It was a very easy activity to adapt and the students all found the golidlock theory to relate to. With the higher ability group it was very easy to get them thinking scientificically with litte intervention.

Reviewer: Beth Harrop

Earth 2

Jun 24th, 2007

5 Star

This was a wonderfully engaging activity that got all the pupils in my very mixed ability Y10 class thinking scientifically. They found the Goldilocks theory easy to relate to.

Reviewer: Mary Sarju

Great Activity

May 11th, 2007

5 Star

This is a gem of an activity, as suggested it can be short (30 mins with an able and motivated group) but can be extended. I have just used this with a group of Yr 10s following the OCR National course. It filled in the gaps a difficult assessment objective well.

Reviewer: Lindsay Weller