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NASA-funded survey suggests earth-sized planets are common

November 04, 2010
"This is the statistical fruit of years of planet-hunting work. The data tell us that our galaxy, with its roughly 200 billion stars, has at least 46 billion Earth-size planets, and that's not counting Earth-size planets that orbit farther away from their stars in the habitable zone."
- principal investigator Geoff Marcy

Nearly one in four stars similar to the sun may host planets as small as Earth, according to a new study funded by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of California.

Astronomers used the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii for five years to search 166 sun-like stars near our solar system for planets of various sizes, ranging from three to 1,000 times the mass of Earth. All of the planets in the study orbit close to their stars. The results show more small planets than large ones, indicating small planets are more prevalent in our Milky Way galaxy.

image

This artist rendering provided by the European South Observatory shows some of the 32 new planets that astronomers found outside our solar system, adding evidence to the theory that the universe has many places where life could develop.

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