Milky Way holds at least 300 MILLION habitable planets, NASA claims

Milky Way holds at least 300 MILLION habitable planets, NASA claims

At a time when we are looking for answers to the ultimate question - are we alone - and there is a widening space race amid the discovery of water on the Moon and parts of Mars, a new observation has piqued the interest of the astronomical community by suggesting that there could be almost 300 million potentially habitable worlds within our galaxy.

Space objects similar to the Blue Planet can be located next to stars that have characteristics similar to the Sun.

"Kepler already told us there were billions of planets, but now we know a good chunk of those planets might be rocky and habitable", said Steve Bryson, lead author and a researcher at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (Nasa's) Ames Research Center. "Though this result is far from a final value, and water on a planet's surface is only one of many factors to support life, it's extremely exciting that we calculate these world are this common with such high confidence and precision". They chose the planets that are believed to be rocky. This research throws light on the potential of these planets to host life.

They went in search of the Holy grail of astronomical research, scouring for the "Goldilock's Zone" where life may thrive. Age and temperature (plus-minus 1500 Fahrenheit) of these stars were taken into account.

But this simplified approach is no guarantee life will thrive and makes many assumptions, researchers acknowledge, so the astronomers cross-referenced this data with that of the ESA's Gaia telescope.

The Gaia mission provided critical data around the amount of energy that falls on a planet from its host star.

"Somewhere, on some other planet orbiting some very distant star, maybe in another galaxy, there could well be entities that are at least as intelligent as we are, and are interested in science". "Surveys aimed at small, potentially habitable planets around Sun-like stars will depend on results like these to maximize their chance of success". An alternative optimistic definition of the habitable zone estimates about 75%. It spent nine years on this mission before running out of fuel in 2018.

Kepler, which launched back in 2009, came to be known by its team as 'the little spacecraft that could, ' going above and beyond the expectations NASA had for it.

More than 4,500 exoplanets have been discovered so far, with only a small portion thought to have the properties to contain life.

Before Kepler, we'd never found any planets outside of our solar system. Future research will continue to refine the rate, informing the likelihood of finding these kinds of planets and feeding into plans for the next stages of exoplanet research, including future telescopes.

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