Given such extreme space weather, the earth system
would also be faced with many strong magnetic and
dynamic forces in the solar wind. These forces have the
potential to erode the atmosphere of inner planets with
much stronger conditions, although at present this is not
quantified. There are also electric potential forces in the
ionosphere of the inner planets that are able to strip the
atmosphere of oxygen and water over extended periods
of time. Given these factors, it may be noted that it is
remarkable that the earth’s atmosphere is not like Mars,
which does not have much of an atmosphere, or Venus
which has very little water and oxygen.
The presence of life on Earth shows that we are in the
beneficial Goldilocks position, the right distance from the
sun, which is itself remarkably stable in its output of light
and heat in comparison with many other stars of similar
size. The earth’s atmosphere and magnetosphere are also
remarkable in their ability to protect life from the harmful
space environment and prevent significant loss of water
molecules and oxygen to space. The sun and Earth are
optimally designed for life.
Evidence from small M-class dwarf stars that form the
bulk of stars in the Milky Way suggests that any habitable
zone would need to be closer than the earth’s orbit, and yet
most of these stars also present extreme space environments
that would not be conducive to the formation of life. This
raises problems for the search for extra-terrestrial life.
1. Henry, J. The sun is not an average star, J. Creation
17( 3): 35–42, 2003.
2. Marchi, S., Black, B.A., Elkins-Tanton, L.T. and Bottke, W.F., Massive
impact-induced release of carbon and sulfur gases in the early Earth’s
atmosphere, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 449: 96, 2016; doi: 10.1016/j.
3. For instance, Lane, N. and Martin, W. F., The origin of membrane bioenergetics,
Cell 151:1406–1416, 2012.
4. Airapetian, V.S., Glocer, A., Gronoff, G., Hébrard, E. and Danchi, W.,
Prebiotic chemistry and atmospheric warming of early Earth by an active
young Sun, Nature Geoscience 9:452–455, 2016; doi: 10.1038/ngeo2719, 23
5. Magnetopause is the boundary between the earth’s magnetic field and the
magnetic field of the solar wind.
6. Nascimento Jr, J.D., Vidotto, A.A., Petit, P. et al., Magnetic field and wind
of Kappa Ceti: towards the planetary habitability of the young Sun when life
arose on Earth, Astrophysical Journal Letters, 12 March 2016.
7. See, for instance, Cliver, E. W. and Svalgaard, L., The 1859 solar–terrestrial
disturbance and the current limits of extreme space weather activity, Solar
Physics 224:407–422, 2004.
8. Ramirez, R., Atmosphere’s solar shock, Nature Geoscience, 23 May 2016;
9. Interview in Hadhazy, A., Fierce ‘Superflares’ from the Sun Zapped an
Infant Earth, Astrobiology Magazine, astrobio.net/news-exclusive/fierce-superflares-sun-zapped-infant-earth/, 2 Mar 2015.
10. One way around this for naturalists is to propose that life arose near
hydrothermal vents in the deep ocean and obtained energy via chemosynthesis.
Michael, S., Hydrothermal Vents Could Explain Chemical Precursors to Life,
NASA Astrobiology: Life in the Universe, NASA, 24 June 2014.
11. Thomas, B.C., Jackman, C. H. and Melott, A. L., Modeling atmospheric effects
of the September 1859 solar flare, Geophysical Research Letters 34:L06810,
2007, doi: 10.1029/2006GL029174.
12. Collinson, G.A., Frahm, R.A., Glocer, A. et al., The electric wind of Venus:
A global and persistent ‘polar wind’ like ambipolar electric field sufficient for
the direct escape of heavy ionospheric ions, Geophysical Research Letters
43( 11), 16 June 2016. Ambipolar refers to the diffusion by an electric field of
positive and negative electric ions in a broadly equal, but opposite, direction.
13. Karoff, C., Knudsen, M.F., De Cat, P. et al., Observational evidence for
enhanced magnetic activity of superflare stars, Nature Communications 7,
Article number: 11058 (2016), doi: 10.1038/ncomms11058, published online
24 March 2016.
14. Kowalski, A., Osten, R. A., Sahu, K.C. and Hawley, S. L., An optical flare rate
census of galactic bulge dwarf stars, Bulletin of the American Astronomical
15. Williams, P.K.G., Casewell, S.L., Stark, C.R. et al., The first millimeter
detection of a non-accreting ultracool dwarf, The Astrophysical J. 815( 1): 64,
9 December 2015.
16. This was presented by Stephen Drake, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard
Space Flight Center, Maryland, at an August meeting of the American
Astronomical Society, High Energy Astrophysics Division. Reported by
Reddy, F., NASA’s Swift Mission Observes Mega Flares from a Mini Star,
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, 29 September 2014,
17. Naeye, R., The mouse that roared: pipsqueak star unleashes monster flare,
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, 19 May 2008, nasa.gov/
centers/goddard/ne ws/topstory/2008/ pipsqueak_star.html.
Andrew Sibley works as a meteorologist in the UK.
He has a B.Sc. (Hons.) and completed an M.Sc. in
Environmental Decision Making in 2003 with the Open
University, and finished an M.Phil. in theology at a UK
university in 2012, which looked at the science and
theology of Intelligent Design. He is an occasional
speaker and writer with the Creation Science Movement
based in Portsmouth, England, and the author of
Restoring the Ethics of Creation.