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Billions of Earth-size planets in Milky Way

There are about 17 billion in the milky way — but the search for a 'goldilocks planet', just right to support life, goes on

  • ap
  • Published: 14:36 January 8, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AP
  • This artist rendering released by Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics shows the different types of planets in our Milky Way galaxy detected by Nasa’s Kepler spacecraft. A new analysis of Kepler data found there are at least 17 billion planets the size of Earth.

Los Angeles: Our Milky Way is home to at least 17 billion planets that are similar in size to Earth, a new estimate suggests. That’s more than two Earth-size planets for every person on the globe.

Just how many are located in the sweet spot where water could exist is “simply too early to call,” said Francois Fressin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, who presented his work at an astronomy meeting on Monday.

It’s the first reliable tally of the number of worlds outside the solar system that are the size of Earth, but the hunt for our twin is far from over.

Despite the explosion of exoplanet discoveries in recent years, one find remains elusive: A planet that’s not only the right size but also in the so-called Goldilocks zone where it’s not too hot or too cold for water to be in liquid form on the surface.

The sheer number of Earth-size planets gives astronomers a starting point to narrow down which ones are in the habitable zone.

Fressin and his team came up with their figure by conducting a fresh analysis of data collected by Nasa’s Kepler spacecraft, which was launched in 2009 to track down other Earths. They estimated at least one in six stars in the galaxy hosts a planet the size of ours, translating to at least 17 billion Earth-size worlds.

Using a different method, a team from the University of California, Berkeley and University of Hawaii separately came up with a similar estimate. They calculated 17 per cent of distant stars have planets that are the same size as Earth or slightly larger.

The findings were presented at the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, California.

Meanwhile, the Kepler spacecraft continues to spot planets as they pass between Earth and the star they orbit. It found 461 new candidate planets, bringing the total to 2,740 potential planets, said mission scientist Christopher Burke at the SETI Institute.

Most of the new Kepler finds were driven by discoveries of Earth-size planets and super-Earths. Four of those are thought to reside in the Goldilocks zone, but more observations are needed.

Fressin said it’s clear that rocky planets abound outside the solar system.

“If you look up on a starry night, each star you’re looking at — almost each one of them — has a planetary system,” Fressin said.

Comments (4)

Share your views.
  1. Added 16:22 January 9, 2013

    Still whatever discoverd is a particle of sand in an earth.Whatever not discovered is limitless.Allah(SWT) is powerful and great. However this discovery is amazing and appreciable by scientist and hope they go through Quran and discover more in future.All the best scientists for bounties to realize from Allah(SWT).

    Fair enough, jubail, Saudi Arabia

  2. Added 13:39 January 9, 2013

    Technology and discoveries are developing day by day however earth is only one! It is unique... No planet can be like earth...

    sandra, satwa, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 11:17 January 9, 2013

    The Universe is too big and we are nothing compared to the Universe.

    Noman Rasheed, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 09:22 January 9, 2013

    SubhanAllah Allah is the most powerful and can do whatever he wants. These things are the miracles of Allah for human beings to believe that Yes, there is no other God but Allah. Thanks

    Waseem, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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