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Astronomers Estimate Milky Way May Have 100 Billion Alien Worlds 294

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-a-lot-of-away-missions dept.
astroengine writes "Last year, using the exoplanets discovered by the Kepler space telescope as a guide, astronomers took a statistical stab at estimating the number of exoplanets that exist in our galaxy. They came up with at least 50 billion alien worlds. Today, astronomers from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., and the PLANET (Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork) collaboration have taken their own stab at the 'galactic exo-planetary estimate' and think there are at least 100 billion worlds knocking around the Milky Way."
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Astronomers Estimate Milky Way May Have 100 Billion Alien Worlds

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  • Re:Sweet (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @09:53PM (#38669876)

    Unfortunately, the probability of you finding one of those just went from 1:50 billion to 1:100 billion.

    That is assuming that a planet with Amazonian Women, hot green chicks, and Galactic Girls Gone Wild is unique. If it is the sort of planet that comes up once in every ten billion, his chances of finding such a planet just doubled.

  • Re:Fermi Paradox (Score:4, Informative)

    by rubycodez (864176) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:42PM (#38670188)
    we could be awash in ETI signals and not know it yet. there is no reason to even think we have a Fermi Paradox, we're too new at long distance communication.
  • by rubycodez (864176) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:51PM (#38670232)
    funding runs out November 2012. The cost is $20 million per additional year, and NASA would like four more years to have 7.5 year mission, that will allow them to get more transits from earth sized worlds that are hiding in noise currently (stars are more variable on average than was thought, a discovery in itself) http://www.space.com/13857-nasa-kepler-mission-extension-alien-planets.html [space.com]
  • Junk Science (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:54PM (#38670242)

    Probably no life on other planets. Extra terrestrial life is a concept that became popular in the 60's and 70's pseudo-science new age period. During this time there were many crazy theories ranging from dolphin cities to crystal healing. The Drake equation came from this era.
    The calculus of events that came to form life and then intelligence is unique. Our egos are more evolved then our intelligence. Recent theories are intelligence evolved from the part of the brain that controls speech. It is easy to forget that everything came from somewhere. I have noticed an "adam and eve" view of intelligence in that intelligence "popped" into existence.
    Also, the belief in extra terrestrial life is too closely related to common religions ideas. The passionate belief in something that has never had a single shred of evidence is called faith. Theoretical physics, evolution, and paleontology all exist on theory as well but are based on observable evidence; they are examples of "soft science"; ideas that are constantly and purposely making past ideas obsolete. The search for extra terrestrial life does not fall into this category.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:55PM (#38670246)

    The problem is that unless said aliens are pulling the strings on a galactic core super massive black hole and manipulating the plasma jet to serve as a "fucking huge" high gain antenna, the attenuation of the rf signal by interaction with cosmic dust will turn even a real whopper of a broadcast into white noise before it reaches us.

    Basically, they would have to be broadcasting a massively powerful signal capable of killing off lifeforms from the raw energy in the wave before we could detect it at our distance.

  • Re:I'll jump in (Score:4, Informative)

    by Surt (22457) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @10:56PM (#38670250) Homepage Journal

    It doesn't matter, you lose, by a long shot.
    (Which you learn when you read the details and learn that this only applies to worlds about 5x as big as earth. Everything smaller is left out of the estimate, and may result in the final number being as much as 5-10x higher).

  • Re:Like Pluto? (Score:5, Informative)

    by yndrd1984 (730475) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @11:21PM (#38670374)
    Since when has prior use stopped them from suing someone?
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday January 11, 2012 @11:29PM (#38670422)

    You do realize that only the humans in Star Trek spoke English, right? Everyone used universal translators to reduce communications problems. They just didn't portray it the way some other sci-fi has; for instance, in the movie Dune, in the first scene, when the Guild Navigator meets with the Emperor, his helpers speak first using a mechanical device that translates their language, and you can hear both. Star Trek just eliminates that for budget reasons and to avoid distracting viewers.

    Besides, 300+ years in the future it's quite possible we won't be speaking English at all, or it might be very different from what we speak now. With any sci-fi that's in English and set in the future, you might as well assume that all the dialog has been translated into modern English for the benefit of the reader. I believe the Dune series (set 10,000 years in the future) even explicitly says they use a different language, or several in fact, but the characters' dialog is still in modern English so that the author didn't have to invent a new language like Tolkein's Sindarin.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @01:28AM (#38671026) Homepage
    Because it isn't. They've done some very careful estimating here. This works off a combination of modelig and empirical data. We know how many stars Kepler has looked at and what approximate fraction of the total set of stars in the galaxy that represents. For those stars, we have a pretty good idea of lower bounds of how many planets they have, and we know what sorts of planets are the sort that Kepler would have trouble detecting. We can look at that distribution and use it to get a rough estimate. No one is claiming that this number is precise. But the true number is likely not more than an order of magnitude or two off. This isn't an asspull. This is scientists working very carefully very difficult stuff on the cutting edge and doing their best with hard work and rigorous thinking to produce an estimate. This is what real science looks like.
  • Re:Sweet (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @01:32AM (#38671044)

    To be pedantic, the chances actually didn't change at all.

  • by khallow (566160) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @03:07AM (#38671354)

    The problem is that unless said aliens are pulling the strings on a galactic core super massive black hole and manipulating the plasma jet to serve as a "fucking huge" high gain antenna

    They could always just build a big antenna with some power and decent cooling. And we could do the same. No need to sterilize a galactic core any more than it already has been. Cosmic dust is not that effective an attenuator or we wouldn't be able to see objects billions of light years away.

  • Re:I'll jump in (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jappus (1177563) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @05:03AM (#38671724)

    And I would say that I happen to know for a fact, that there are at least 8.

  • by tigersha (151319) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @08:21AM (#38672418) Homepage

    No, the Voyager probes transmit at 23 Watts, which is basically nothing. The entire power system on the craft can generate about 250 Watts, which is used for all the systems. The fact that Nasa can track an object transmitting half the power of a lightbulb 11 billion km away to very fine precision is absolutely the most amazing thing they ever did in the space program IMHO.

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/question431.htm [howstuffworks.com]

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