New Estimates Suggest There Are Around 300 Million Habitable Planets in Our Galaxy
Even just in the Milky Way galaxy, there are more than 300 million exoplanets that could have life on them. This means that 300 million planets are likely to have the right conditions for life, even life with a lot of complexity, to grow on their surfaces. Are there no other people in the universe?
How big is the place where we live? With the way we measure the universe and the technology we have now, we can’t find out. We can make educated guesses, but we are still a long way from being able to study the universe.
We can learn more about how big our galaxy is. Overall, it’s a big place with a lot of planets. But how many of these worlds are like Earth, and how many of them can people live on? This is another hard problem to solve, but we can do the math based on what we’ve seen over time.
New research based on information from the Kepler space observatory says that there could be up to 300 million planets in our galaxy that could support life. The good news about the new estimates is that they could be very close to Earth. None of these possibly habitable exoplanets are more than 30 light-years away.
Scientists from NASA, the SETI Institute, and other places all over the world worked together on a big project to help us learn more about the galaxy we live in.
Even though 300 million planets seems like a lot, it is only a small part of how many planets are thought to be in our galaxy. The Milky Way has at least one planet for every star, according to our best estimates. This means that the galaxy we live in could have anywhere from 100 billion to 400 billion planets.
On the other hand, there are at least 125 billion galaxies in the part of the universe that we can see.
According to co-author Jeff Coughlin, a SETI Institute scientist who studies exoplanets, “this is the first time that all of the components have been put together to produce a solid count of the number of potentially habitable planets in the galaxy.”
The best part is that we can look at the Drake Equation again once we know how many habitable exoplanets there are in the galaxy.
“This is a key term of the Drake Equation, used to estimate the number of communicable civilizations — we’re one step closer on the long road to finding out if we’re alone in the cosmos,” the researcher revealed.
The Drake Equation is a way to figure out how likely it is that there are advanced alien civilizations in our galaxy and how many of them we could talk to from Earth.
In their new estimate of the number of possible habitable planets in our galaxy, researchers looked for worlds like Earth. They also thought about planets that are likely to be made of rocks.
Then, scientists looked for stars in the universe that were like the Sun. They looked for stars that were about the same age and temperature as our sun.
Another important thing to look at is whether or not an exoplanet has the right conditions for liquid water to exist on its surface. This has a big effect on whether or not a planet can be inhabited. All of this was taken into account in the most recent study, which is different from earlier ones that only looked for potentially habitable planets in the galaxy, basing their estimates mostly on how far away the planet was from its star.
The new study looks at a few more things, like how much light from the star hits the planet. This is an important part of figuring out how likely it is that there is liquid water on the surface of the planet.
Researchers looked at both the data from the Kepler Space Telescope and the data from the Gaia Mission of the European Space Agency.
When the Kepler space telescope stopped looking for exoplanets in 2018, it found more than 2,800 of them all over the universe. Many of these worlds still need to be confirmed, which could add to the number of planets we know about so far.
There are 4,935 confirmed exoplanets, 8709 NASA exoplanet candidates, and 3,706 solar systems as of March 3, 2022. More information is available here.
SETI’s news release can be found here.
Reference(s): The Astronomical Journal