The results of a new study have been published, and the researchers found exoplanet data suggests there could be at least 300 million potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way. The scientists found that about half of the sun-like stars in the Milky Way could be home to Earth-like planets.
Researchers have long believed that the best chance of discovering life outside of our planet is to find planets that are similar to Earth. Scientists also believe that the best way to find planets similar to Earth is to search for sun-like stars. The researchers performed a new analysis of data collected by the NASA Kepler space telescope, which was in operation from 2009 through 2018.
Using that data, they came up with new estimates for how many stars in our galaxy are similar to the sun in temperature and age. They further determine how many of those stars are likely to have rocky planets orbiting them in the star’s habitable zone. Current estimates suggest there are 4.1 billion sun-like stars in the galaxy, with the research suggesting at least 300 million of them have at least a single planet orbiting.
The data suggests that one in two sun-like stars could have a habitable planet suggesting that there could be as many as 2 billion or more habitable planets in the Milky Way. Less conservative predictions based on the data found that there could be as many as 3.6 billion habitable planets. Those numbers are so massive that it’s difficult to wrap your brain around it.
The study hasn’t been peer-reviewed, but it will be, and it is due to be published in the Astronomical Journal. Astronomer Adam Frank from the University of Rochester wasn’t involved with the study but said it appears to be a very careful study. It remains to be seen how well the findings hold up under peer review.