Rocky planets, possibly with conditions suitable for life, may be more common than previously thought in our galaxy.
So, despite all doubts from skeptics, we might not be alone after all.
New evidence suggests more than half the Sun-like stars in the Milky Way could have similar planetary systems. Astronomers believe there may also be hundreds of undiscovered worlds in outer parts of our Solar System. They say that future studies of such worlds will "radically alter our understanding of how planets are formed".
The new findings about planets were presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston.
Michael Meyer, an astronomer from the University of Arizona, said he believes Earth-like planets are "probably very common around Sun-like stars".
"Our observations suggest that between 20% and 60% of Sun-like stars have evidence for the formation of rocky planets not unlike the processes we think led to planet Earth," he explained.
Meyer's team used the US space agency's Spitzer space telescope to look at groups of stars with masses similar to the Sun. They detected discs of cosmic dust around stars in some of the youngest groups surveyed. This dust is believed to be a by-product of rocky debris colliding and merging to form planets. NASA's Kepler mission to search for Earth-sized and smaller planets, due to be launched next year, is expected to reveal more clues about these distant undiscovered worlds.
The Emerald Islander
(looking forward to learn more)