Cosmic census finds crowd of planets in our galaxy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists have estimated the first cosmic census of planets in our galaxy and the numbers are astronomical: at least 50 billion planets in the Milky Way.

At least 500 million of those planets are in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold zone where life could exist. The numbers were extrapolated from the early results of NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler telescope.

Kepler science chief William Borucki says scientists took the number of planets they found in the first year of searching a small part of the night sky and then made an estimate on how likely stars are to have planets. Kepler spots planets as they pass between Earth and the star it orbits.

So far Kepler has found 1,235 candidate planets, with 54 in the Goldilocks zone, where life could possibly exist. Kepler’s main mission is not to examine individual worlds, but give astronomers a sense of how many planets, especially potentially habitable ones, there are likely to be in our galaxy. They would use the one-four-hundredth of the night sky that Kepler is looking at and extrapolate from there.

Borucki and colleagues figured one of two stars has planets and one of 200 stars has planets in the habitable zone, announcing these ratios Saturday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Washington. And that’s a minimum because these stars can have more than one planet and Kepler has yet to get a long enough glimpse to see planets that are further out from the star, like Earth, Borucki said.

For example, if Kepler were 1,000 light years from Earth and looking at our sun and noticed Venus passing by, there’s only a one-in-eight chance that Earth would also be seen, astronomers said.

To get the estimate for the total number of planets, scientists then took the frequency observed already and applied it to the number of stars in the Milky Way.

For many years scientists figured there were 100 billion stars in the Milky Way, but last year a Yale scientist figured the number was closer to 300 billion stars.

Either way it shows that Carl Sagan was right when he talked of billions and billions of worlds, said retired NASA astronomer Steve Maran, who praised the research but wasn’t part of it.

And that’s just our galaxy. Scientists figure there are 100 billion galaxies.

Borucki said the new calculations lead to worlds of questions about life elsewhere in the cosmos. “The next question is why haven’t they visited us?”

And the answer? “I don’t know,” Borucki said.



Kepler site:

  • LiberalBasher

    Stop attacking science, losers. Its because of science that you have a computer and the Internet. No discipline is perfect. Without science we are nowhere near as advanced a civilization as we are.

  • Slippery

    If we ever find truly intelligent life, or if it finds us, these intelligent beings will probably think we are idiots for making marijuana illegal! Imagine, I read that 50,000 people were arrested in 2010 in New York alone. What an incredibly stupid thing to do! And for what – using something safer than alcohol or cigarettes. I hope we get our act together before our meeting with advanced beings!

    • toomuchinfo

      Way to stay on topic. Pass the Dutchie to the right hand side.

  • 3punch4

    Uh, Yea. And @ 4.3 light years our stellar neighbor located to the south celestial sphere centauri star system to which we know less about this gigantic star system. So, how do humans propose to get there if they happen to find a habitat planet filled with milk and honey?
    Pseudo-intellectual Americana rejected every advanced space propulsion system including NUCLEAR SPACE propulsion in favor of environmental Luddites and AGW warm climate changers. Get real, “…the Earth is flat!” and that’s the way americans like it.

  • morecommonsense

    How sad it is to witness the death of “Science”, today. It amazes me that their pronouncements are taken as gospel by many in this world. These pinheads do not have the SLIGHTEST idea how many planets there are in our galaxy. Many of the members of this once proud profession have degenerated into Leftist snakeoil salesmen.

    • toomuchinfo

      These guys said, “Not too hot,” so they may not be warmers. You can’t lump everyone in with Big Al.

  • didacticrogue

    So all we need is to get each of those 50,000,000,000 planets to send us $300, and we’ll have that whole national debt thing whipped.

  • loudog

    I wonder which one thephranc came from?

    • toomuchinfo

      Thephranc called to say that Global Warming is not real, but added that he thinks Tim Minchin is cool, and you would probably be statistically just as happy listening to him, instead of mucking about with stupid liberal theories.

  • GeniousIQ

    Global warming has proven that scientists know nothing. We all know that there are 6 planets and that the earth is in the middle. Everything else is a Soros/liberal conspiracy and the teachers unions are just indoctrinating our kids to believe the lies.

    • loudog

      It’s amazing that all this was done 6000 yrs ago.

      • toomuchinfo

        Your mom was done 6,000 yrs ago. (He said, good naturedly.) 😉