The Hunt For E.T. Life: Sun-like Stars In The Milky Way May Have Earth-like Worlds
A new study suggests that our own Milky Way galaxy hosts sun-like stars that potentially have Earth-like planets. On average, every sun-like star in the Milky Way galaxy is likely harboring between 0.4 to 0.9 rocky planets in its so-called “goldilocks zone” or “habitable zone.” With the right range of orbital distance from its host star, liquid water could easily be stable on an exoplanet’s surface.
Apparently, around 7% of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way are “G Dwarfs,” which are stars that are just like the sun, and considering that 7% are just like our home star, there’s a big possibility that there are also Earth-like planets. NASA and other space agencies today will certainly have to do some extensive investment planning in order to explore these potential Earth-like planets.
Measuring the Potential Number of Habitable Planets
Scientists have only been able to put together the pieces that are needed in providing a reliable measurement of a knowledgeable estimate of potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way galaxy. Several researchers have worked around the “Drake Equation” and managed to use the estimated number of communicable civilizations as a key term to the equation itself.
With all the technology that we possess today, it’ll only be a matter of time before we’ll get to know more about these potentially habitable planets and the civilizations that may call them home. We’re certainly one step closer to finding out if we’re alone in the universe, and scientists and researchers deserve all the credit for this significant milestone.
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope
One of the tools that have allowed researchers and scientists to know more about this topic is NASA’s Kepler space telescope. It has allowed scientists and researchers to begin the journey of finding a potentially habitable planet in the Milky Way galaxy.
There’s been a new study by a large team based in NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. The research center poured in observations made by the Kepler space telescope, which operated between the years 2009 until 2018. Without a doubt, Kepler played a crucial role as it discovered more than 2,800 exoplanets to date. The brilliant minds behind the Kepler space telescope certainly deserve credit for opening new doors in humankind’s space exploration.
Today, researchers keep sifting through Kepler’s huge dataset. There are a lot of Kepler “candidates” that are awaiting further analyses and observations!
European Space Agency & The Gaia Spacecraft
The European Space Agency is also making contributions in the hunt for an Earth-like planet. NASA and the European Space Agency are in direct collaboration as researchers are also analyzing data from the stellar properties gathered by the Gaia Spacecraft. The Gaia Spacecraft is precisely mapping around a billion stars in the Milky Way.
The researchers working on this topic used the gathered data to estimate certain occurrence rates for rocky planets that are in the habitable zones of sun-like stars. Both scientists and researchers have clearly defined “rocky planets” as those planets with diameters from 0.5 to 1.5 times that of Earth. “Sun-like stars” are those with surface temperatures ranging from 4,527 to 6,027 degrees Celsius! Of course, planets that are primarily made of gas are excluded from the study.
The Concept of Habitable Zones
The habitable zone or HZ is undoubtedly a squishy concept as there are several factors that can decide if a planet is in a star’s habitable zone. However, what’s certain is that the habitable zone is almost synonymous with a planet’s ability to sustain water and water-dependent Earth-like life. Worlds that have subsurface liquid water aren’t included in the conversation.
Researchers have recently obtained essential data for which they deserve a ton of credit. They have calculated the occurrence rates for both “optimistic” and “conservative” habitable zones. There are around 0.37 to 0.60 exoplanets per star that are potentially in the habitable zone. Both ranges have significant uncertainties, but one thing is for sure, the potential for Earth-like worlds are all around us and that it’s incredibly abundant in our solar system’s backyard.