Tags: planets | life | Milky | Way

Billions of Planets Might Support Life, Astronomers Say

Thursday, 29 Mar 2012 03:39 PM

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Billions of planets that could support life might exist within the Milky Way, the Earth’s galaxy, according to an international team of scientists. Astronomers based their findings on a study of red dwarf stars, which constitute 80 percent of the stars in the Milky Way, The Telegraph of London reported.

The scientists estimate that about 40 percent of the red dwarf stars have rocky planets slightly larger than Earth orbiting a “habitable zone” at a distance from the stars where liquid surface water could exist. Where there is water, there could be life, although astronomers say there is no guarantee of that.

Xavier Bonfils of Grenoble University in France, who led the scientific team, said, “Because red dwarfs are so common — there are about 160 billion of them in the Milky Way — this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone.”

In addition, the proximity of at least 100 “super-Earths” orbiting red dwarf stars — less than 30 light years, or about 180 trillion miles from the sun — led the scientists to conclude that water, and life, could exist on the planets at a distance galactically near Earth.

The astronomers’ research originally was reported in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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