There are likely “tens of billions” of Earth-like planets in our Milky Way galaxy, according to a study released Monday by astronomers from the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Hawaii.
“Planets like our Earth are relatively common throughout the Milky Way galaxy,” said astronomer Andrew Howard of the University of Hawaii, who estimates the number at about 40 billion.
In fact, the nearest Earth-like planet may be “only” 12 light years away, which is roughly 72 trillion miles.
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…
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.
The research was based mainly on an exhaustive, three-year search of Kepler data undertaken by Erik Petigura, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Now, for the first time, humanity has a measure of how common Earth-size planets are around sun-like stars,” Marcy added.
Howard says the new estimate of planets means there are 40 billion chances “for life to get started and to evolve.”
Given this significantly growing number of estimated earth-like planets in our own Milky Way galaxy, it is therefore increasingly significant that we have not yet encountered signs of alien life yet (whether via radio communication or physical visitation), which increasingly vindicates the Fermi Paradox.