Using NASA's Kepler spacecraft, astronomers are beginning to find Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. A new analysis of Kepler data shows that about 17% of stars have an Earth-sized planet in an orbit closer than Mercury. Since the Milky Way has about 100 billion stars, there are at least 17 billion Earth-sized worlds out there. The odds are that at least ONE of these harbors intelligent life.
Altogether, researchers have found that 50% of stars have a planet of Earth-size or larger in a close orbit. By adding larger planets, which have been detected in wider orbits up to the orbital distance of the Earth, this number reaches 70%. In other words, practically all Sun-like stars have planets.
The Center for Astrophysics quotes astronomer Guillermo Torres as saying, "Earths and super-Earths aren't picky. We're finding them in all kinds of neighborhoods."
Maybe we're not alone, after all.
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