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Billions Of Earth-Like Planets Discovered

Danielle Tarasiuk |
November 4, 2013 | 9:42 p.m. PST

Senior Reporter

(The Milky Way Galaxy/ Creative Commons)
(The Milky Way Galaxy/ Creative Commons)
There are possibly 40 billion Earth-like planets within the Milky Way galaxy according to a study released Monday from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Hawaii. 

The closest Earth-like planet according to research is a short 12 light years away. 

“Planets like our Earth are relatively common throughout the Milky Way galaxy,” USA Today reported that astronomer Andrew Howard from the University of Hawaii said. 

From USA Today

In all, about 8.8 billion stars in our galaxy have planets that are nearly the size of Earth and also have a surface temperature conducive to the development of life. But many more stars (those not similar to our sun) also have planets where life could form, which is where the 40 billion-planet figure comes from.

Like Goldilocks tasting the porridge, temperatures must be "just right" for life to develop: Planets must have a so-called "habitable zone" with "lukewarm temperatures, so that water would not be frozen into ice or vaporized into steam but instead remain a liquid, because liquid water is now understood to be the prerequisite for life," said Geoffrey Marcy, a professor of astronomy at Berkeley.

The discovery was based on the most accurate statistical analysis yet of all the observations from the Kepler telescope, a space observatory launched in 2009 specifically designed to locate planets around other stars.

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