NASA: More Earth-Like Planets Found in Milky Way

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This artists illustration gives an impression of how common planets are around the stars in the Milky Way.
  • NASA
  • This artist's illustration gives an impression of how common planets are around the stars in the Milky Way.

NASA confirmed Monday that hundreds of Earth-like planets have been spotted trillions of miles away in the Milky Way. The planets were spotted by the Kepler Space Telescope launched by NASA in 2009, which watches about 150,000 stars.

A new analysis of the data from the telescope shows that around 17 percent of the stars in the Milky Way have planets about the same size as Earth. but the planets are too far for even satellites to spot. The Kepler Telescope instead looks at the flickering of light to determine if a planet is there in the distance—flickering might signal a planet crossing in front of it.

The data set was analyzed by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who concluded that all sun-like stars have at least one planet orbiting them.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the astronomers found 461 new planet candidates, four of which are located in zones where liquid water might exist.

The telescope detected 2,740 possible Earth-like planets orbiting 2,036 stars.

"We found that the occurrence of small planets around large stars was underestimated," astronomer Francois Fressin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center told the National Geographic. "Every time you look up on a starry night, [nearly] each star you're looking at has a planetary system."

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