According to NASA estimates there are at least 100 billion stars in the Milky Way, of which about 4 billion are sunlike. If only 7 percent of those stars have habitable planets — a seriously conservative estimate — there could be as many as 300 million potentially habitable Earths out there in the whole Milky Way alone.
It takes a while to collect, sort through, analyze, write up, endure peer review, and publish data from scientific projects.
That’s why finally we’re seeing this, 11 years after Kepler was launched to scour the galaxy for exoplanets.
Now the real challenge will be figuring out how to get there…
It’s time to move on the next factor in the Drake equation for extraterrestrial civilizations: the fraction of these worlds on which life emerges. The search for even a single slime mold on some alien rock would revolutionize biology, and it is a worthy agenda for the next half-century as humans continue the climb out of ourselves and into the universe in the endless quest to end our cosmic loneliness.
Do they have atmospheres and how thick are they? What kind of clouds? Do they possess oceans on their surface? Do they have rings and moons? Cheops ought to be able to address such questions just from looking for these tiny dips in light during a transit.
ESA finally does something! Wow. Go Europe!
I love how BBC says “The Americans” when referring to NASA, as if a) American is an ethnic group and b) all NASA scientists are American.
Prof Didier Queloz, who won this year’s Physics Nobel for discovering the first planet orbiting a Sun-like star in 1995, was on hand to watch the launch.
As a kid I remember reading about “Vulcan,” which people used to think existed between Mercury and the Sun but always orbited on the opposite side.
Completely fictional, of course.
Vulcan made a comeback as the fictional home of Spock in Star Trek. It was said by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry to be orbiting around 40 Eridani (also called HD 26965), a triple star system in the constellation of Eridanus “the river” in the southern hemisphere just 16 light years distant. In September 2018, astronomers at the University of Florida in Gainesville found a “super-Earth” exoplanet orbiting exactly where Vulcan was said to be.
In their presentation, the researchers jokingly compared the planet to Hoth – the icy planet made famous in one of the “Star Wars” movies, when Luke Skywalker’s steed (a fictional lizard species called a Tauntaun) dies and he must stay warm by burrowing into its intestines.
Yay, science. And only six light years away!
Which, since Alpha Centauri at four light years away only takes 137,000 years to get to, would only take…er…just a few ten thousand more years…Hmm…
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