Study: 100 Billion Alien Planets

    This image provided by NASA Tuesday Nov. 11, 2009 shows observations from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory in a collaboration to produce an unprecedented image of the central region of our Milky Way galaxy using infrared light and X-ray light to see through the obscuring dust and reveal the intense activity near the galactic core. Note that the center of the galaxy is located within the bright white region to the right of and just below the middle of the image. The entire image width covers about one-half a degree, about the same angular width as the full moon. Each telescope's contribution is presented in a different color. Yellow represents the near-infrared observations of Hubble. The observations outline the energetic regions where stars are being born as well as reveal hundreds of thousands of stars. Red represents the infrared observations of Spitzer. The radiation and winds from stars create glowing dust clouds that exhibit complex structures from compact, spherical globules to long, stringy filaments. Blue and violet represent the X-ray observations of Chandra. X-rays are emitted by gas heated to millions of degrees by stellar explosions and by outflows from the supermassive black hole in the galaxy's center. The bright blue blob on the left side is emission from a double star system containing either a neutron star or a black hole. (AP Photo/NASA) When these views are brought together, this composite image provides one of the most detailed views ever of our galaxy's mysterious core.

    NASA, via AP

    This means the truth must be really out there, right? A new study released Thursday suggests that our Milky Way galaxy houses at least 100 billion alien planets, and possibly even more. That numbers one planet per star. Researchers from NASA made the estimate after studying a five-planet system called Kepler-32, which is thought to be representative of the galaxy’s many other planets. “I usually try not call things ‘Rosetta stones,’ but this is as close to a Rosetta stone as anything I’ve seen,” says John Johnson, one of the study’s authors. “It’s like unlocking a language that we’re trying to understand—the language of planet formation.”

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