Thanks to new research using data from the Kepler Space Telescope, it is estimated that there may be as many as 300 million potentially habitable planets in our galaxy. Some may even be very close, and some are only 30 light years away from our sun.The research results will be published in Astronomy MagazineThis research was done in collaboration with scientists from NASA, the SETI Institute and other organizations around the world.
Jeff Coughlin, an exoplanet researcher at the SETI Institute and director of the Kepler Telescope, said: “This is the first time that all components have been combined to provide a reliable measurement of the number of potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way.”
The Drake equation is a probability argument that details the factors to be considered when estimating the potential number of technologically advanced civilizations in the galaxy that may be discovered. The Drake equation is also generally regarded as a road map for astrobiology and guides many studies of the SETI Institute.
In order to arrive at a reasonable estimate, the researchers studied exoplanets, which are similar in size to Earth, so they are likely to be rocky planets. They also observed so-called sun-like stars, which are at the same age as our sun and have roughly the same temperature. Another consideration for livability is whether the earth can have the necessary conditions to support liquid water.
Previous estimates for determining the number of potentially habitable exoplanets in the Milky Way are mainly based on the distance between planets and stars. The new study also considers how much light hits the planet from the star, which will affect the likelihood of the planet supporting liquid water. To this end, the research team not only studied Kepler’s data, but also studied data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, which relates to how much energy the star emits.
By considering both Kepler and Gaia data, the results better reflect the diversity of stars, solar systems, and exoplanets in our galaxy.
Co-author Michelle Kunimoto said: “Understanding the different types of planets is extremely important for the design of upcoming exoplanet search missions,” after she completed her PhD in exoplanet incidence at the University of British Columbia Worked on this paper and recently joined the Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Surveys of small planets that may live around sun-like stars will depend on these results to maximize the chance of success.”
More research is needed to understand the role of planetary atmospheres in supporting the ability of liquid water. In this analysis, the researchers used conservative estimates of the impact of the atmosphere to estimate the occurrence of solar-like stars whose rocky planets may contain liquid water.
The Kepler mission officially stopped collecting data in 2018. More than 2,800 confirmed exoplanets have been identified, and thousands of candidates are waiting for confirmation. So far, researchers have identified hundreds of planets in the habitable regions of their stars in Kepler data. It may take a while to find all 300 million!
According to new estimates, there are as many as 6 billion terrestrial planets in our galaxy
Steve Bryson and others, the occurrence of planets in the rocky habitable zone around solar-generated stars in “Kepler Data”, Astronomy Magazine, ArXiv: 2010.14812v1, arxiv.org/abs/2010.14812
Provided by SETI Institute
Citation: How many habitable planets are there? (October 29, 2020) Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2020-10-habitable-planets.html October 30, 2020
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