100 Billion Alien Planets In The Milky Way? One Study Thinks So

By Melissa Siegel on January 3, 2013 4:01 PM EST

milky way
There could be over 100 billion planets in the Milky Way galaxy, according to one study. (Photo: Creative Commons: madmiked)

There may be over 100 billion alien planets in the Milky Way galaxy, according to one study.

Space.com reports that researchers  studied a similar system called Kepler-32, which is about 915 light years away from Earth. Like Earth, the planets in this solar system orbit close to a star. However, its star is considered an M dwarf, which is smaller and cooler than the Earth's sun.

Like Us on Facebook

"I usually try not to call things 'Rosetta stones,' but this is as close to a Rosetta stone as anything I've seen," said study co-author John Johnson. "It's like unlocking a language that we're trying to understand - the language of planet formation."

The Kepler Telescope discovered the five planets in Kepler-32 because the instrument can detect the dips in brightness that occur when the planets cross the front of the M dwarf. The researchers then calculated the odds that an M-dwarf system was properly oriented so it could be detected by the telescope. They then determined approximately how many of these systems the Kepler could detect in order to come up with their estimate of 100 billion alien planets.

"It's a staggering number, if you think about it," said study lead author Jonathan Swift in a statement. "Basically there's one of these planets per star."

This estimate of 100 billion alien planets may actually be low, as the study only looked at planets that orbit close to M dwarf stars. Taking into account those that orbit far away from M dwarf stars or those that do not orbit around those types of stars at all, the actual number of alien planets could be closer to 200 billion.

As we previously reported, a Kepler Space Telescope has discovered over 2,300 planets since March 2009. Researchers believe that they are close to discovering the first "alien Earth" planet with similar properties to our home.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Join the Conversation

Sponsored From Around the Web

    ZergNet
Follow iScience Times
us on facebook RSS
 
us on google
 
Most Popular
INSIDE iScience Times
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet  Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)