Sunday, November 10, 2013
Billions of Earth-like Planets
This week, the University of California, Berkeley and NASA's Kepler Telescope project jointly announced that the ongoing discovery of planets around other stars had yielded some exciting statistics: It now appears that one out of five Sun-like stars has an Earth-like planet!
One out of five! This means there are likely to be BILLIONS of earth-sized planets orbiting at comfortable distances from BILLIONS of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. All of us involved with SETI -- the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence -- are, of course, thrilled to hear this news. Our hope is that among all those planets, there are some where intelligent creatures with an interest in astronomy have developed and perhaps enjoy their own blogs with astronomy news like we do.
The latest stats about known planets around other stars are also record-breaking. As of early November 2013, we have found 1039 planets around 787 stars beyond our solar system! (There are 173 stars so far where we have discovered more than one planet in the same system.) In addition, the Kepler mission (which is searching for such planets from space) already has over 3000 candidate planets which are still being checked out! And they still have a whole year's worth of data to go through.
I was interviewed on KQED, the San Francisco Bay Area public radio station, by Michael Krasny, the host of the Forum program, about all this -- and we were joined by the Berkeley graduate student who had done the basic work of making the estimates. If you want to hear the interview, it is available at: