Friday, March 30, 2012

Thousands of billions of planets in our galaxy could host life

Astronomers investigate planets suitable for life support in the Milky Way estimated that the number of these bodies may amount to several thousand billion.

Research indicates that around 40% of red dwarf stars (the most common in our galaxy) planet orbiting one able to hold water. Milky Way hosts around 160 billion such stars, which means that the number of planets that have a temperature suitable to sustain life is quite high.

The team led by Xavier Bonfils from Planetologie and Astrophysics Institute of Grenoble, France, was first calculated the number of super-Earth planets (with a mass up to 10 times that of Earth) placed in suitable habitats.

Red dwarf stars, which are less luminous and cooler than our sun, is nearly 80% of Milky Way stars. After studying 102 such stars using a telescope at the European Southern Observatory, located in Chile, the scientists found that solid planets are more common than gas giants in our solar system.

However, experts warn that not all solid planets found orbiting small stars are able to allow life to evolve. Because red dwarf stars have lower temperatures than the Sun, planets that have water should orbit closer to the star, compared to the distance that Earth orbits. In this context, the planets may be exposed to too much ultraviolet radiation and X.

In the future, scientists plan to study more closely at some of these planets like Earth, to extract information about the atmosphere and possible signs of life
Sursa: Reuters

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