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Space Science

Study Estimates 100 Billion Planets In the Milky Way Galaxy 101

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-neighborhood dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "A new study finds that there may be 100 billion alien planets in the Milky Way alone, with 17 billion of them the size of Earth. Announcements like this have been made before, but this new research is more robust than previous studies, using data from the Kepler planet-hunting spacecraft over a longer period and analyzing it in a more statistically solid way (PDF). They also found that smaller planets are not as picky about their host stars, with terrestrial planets forming around stars like the Sun or as small as tiny, cool red dwarfs with equal ease."
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Study Estimates 100 Billion Planets In the Milky Way Galaxy

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  • Alien? (Score:5, Funny)

    by DarthVain (724186) on Monday January 07, 2013 @04:25PM (#42510233)

    So are they saying there is 100,000,000,001 total planets? Thats some accuracy!

    Are planets in our Solar System "Alien" or are we claiming ownership over them?

    I think they just wanted to use Alien in the summary.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gapagos (1264716)

      They are estimating, not claiming a precise number. I know people don't RTFA on Slashdot, sometimes not even RTFS (read the fucking summary), but it's gotten to the point that they don't even RTFT now? (read the fucking title)

    • by stms (1132653)

      So are they saying there is 100,000,000,001 total planets?

      Yeah why do you think Obama is planning to build that Death Star he and a lot of other people want there to be a perfect 100,000,000,000 planets in our Galaxy. I can't say I blame them sometimes this fact keeps me up at night.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Monday January 07, 2013 @04:25PM (#42510235)

    But only a few million will be suitable for life-as-we-know-it, Jim

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @04:33PM (#42510371)

      640k ought to be enough for anybody.

    • by peragrin (659227) on Monday January 07, 2013 @06:10PM (#42511771)

      17 billion earth sized. .1% suitable for life as we know it.

      that's 17 million possible habitable worlds.

      If we are alone that seems like an awful lot of wasted space.

      • If we'd had this result in the:

        1950's- Colonise it with men in nuclear rockets!
        1990's - Colonise it with ion engined star probes!
        2013 - This all sounds a bit expensive, when's the next talent show?

        (If there's life out there replace "colonise" with "invade" and "talent show" with "invasion".)
        • by roc97007 (608802)

          > 1950's- Colonise it with men in nuclear rockets!

          Sounds like the colony would be hard put to get past the first generation.

          "Pairs of male elephants to be released into the forests of America. There it is hoped that they will grow in number and the people can tame them and use them as beasts of burden."

          "But your majesty, I don't think you mean pairs of MALE elephants."

        • by Taco Cowboy (5327)

          2013 - This all sounds a bit expensive, when's the next talent show?

          It'd be true if the person is either from Europe or USA.

          It would be a totally different perspective for people in Japan, India, or China

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        17 billion earth sized. .1% suitable for life as we know it.

        that's 17 million possible habitable worlds.

        If we are alone that seems like an awful lot of wasted space.

        Only if you start from the assumption that there is a purpose to the universe, or some sort of Cosmic Architect.

      • by delt0r (999393)
        The universe is not required to consider that it is in fact wasting space. Nor is it required to match desires or expectations. For example going faster than the speed of light may in fact be impossible.

        There really is no answer as of yet. This doesn't really change anything other than confirm what was already expected: a lot of earth like planets around. The really hard stuff is life and more importantly intelligent life. It could be really really rare. Hell even multicellular life may be the really rea
  • by Anonymous Coward

    17 billion in the Milky Way. There's a metric shit ton of other Galaxies.

    "Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

    • When are you going to stop living in fear?

      Hint: We are not alone -- we'll have proof of contact within 20 years.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        When are you going to stop living in fear?

        Hint: We are not alone -- we'll have proof of contact within 20 years.

        That'll be round about the same time we get cold fusion and true AI, yes? Not a coincidence, I'm sure.

        • > That'll be round about the same time we get cold fusion and true AI, yes? Not a coincidence, I'm sure.

          No, I never made such claims.

          Artificial Ignorance won't be replaced with Actual Intelligence until years later when Scientists replace their faulty assumption of consciousness with the correct one.

          It remains to be seen when we will be allowed to tap into the Zero Point Energy this century; it might be as late as the next one.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday January 07, 2013 @06:22PM (#42511899) Homepage

      If we're not, there's a good chance that the aliens are too far away for it to matter. That whole "1 light-year per year" speed limit and all tends to keep 'em away.

  • Goldilocks zone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jasonvan (846103) on Monday January 07, 2013 @04:33PM (#42510377)
    I wonder if there is any way to statically guess the number of planets in the Goldilocks zone, the approximate distance from a star for liquid water to be possible. That would be a very interesting number but I'll just throw out a guess there will be more than one. It's remarkable to think of all the possible life that could be out there. We are probably destend to never meet, but it's interesting nonetheless. I think one of the greatest things finding life elsewhere would accomplish if it ever were to happen, is to study evolution on a completely different scale. The diversity on Earth alone is remarkable, to think what an entirely different planet might produce makes my imagination go wild.
    • Sure you could. Your assumptions would drive the answer. Better would be to vary the assumptions and report the range of answers.

      That's kind of the point of this study. It was done before, but now it was done with data.

    • by jeffclay (1077679)
      Keep in mind that the Goldilocks zone only applies to the carbon-based life that we're familiar with. The diversity between the different types of life developed within the different types of Goldilock zones is what really intrigues me. Think of the periodic table and try to imagine a life form that could have evolved from each element.
      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Keep in mind that the Goldilocks zone only applies to the carbon-based life that we're familiar with. The diversity between the different types of life developed within the different types of Goldilock zones is what really intrigues me. Think of the periodic table and try to imagine a life form that could have evolved from each element.

        As much as we may want to believe life may be based on other atoms than carbon, one needs to keep in mind the geometry of the molecules involved. Carbon works out quite well for the geometry of the proteins. Silicon, for instance, is quite a bit larger and it is questionable if the equivalent amino acid structures and self replicating molecules could actually form based on it or any other "base" atom. Carbon is pretty unique in that regard.

        • The important part is the ability to form long, complex chains. Only two elements can do that: Carbon and silicon. Carbon is better at it. Silicon may be good enough.

          • The important part is the ability to form long, complex chains. Only two elements can do that: Carbon and silicon. Carbon is better at it. Silicon may be good enough.

            It's not just the the chain of base atoms, it is the geometry of the entire molecule. Silicon, being a significantly larger atom than carbon puts the atoms attached to it in a different spacial pattern than if they were attached to carbon. Therefore, what is attached to them is also in a different location. It just doesn't work with silicon as the base because the silicon based organic molecules don't allow things to align in a way that is condusive for the processes that would lead to life. The most abun

    • by godel_56 (1287256)

      I wonder if there is any way to statically guess the number of planets in the Goldilocks zone, the approximate distance from a star for liquid water to be possible.

      Is Europa in the Goldilocks zone? The possibilities for life may be much wider than we guess.

      • Also, remember we're working on big temporal scales here. The Goldilocks zone alone moves around a lot during a star's evolution. Titan may be habitable for a period when the Sun goes red giant, a million planets could have seen and lost life already, and yet we could still be the only ones at the moment.
    • by mozkill (58658)
      At the end of James Mitcher's book "Space" , he does a calculation for estimating the number of planets.
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Sure - it's just a numbers game. Right now we have managed to detect hundreds of planets, and just as importantly our equipment has gotten sensitive enough that we can be fairly certain in saying that other stars we've examined *don't* have planets (or at least not close ones). That's a large enough sample to make a reasonable estimate of the odds that any given star will have planets. And since we can also estimate how many stars are in our galaxy we can estimate the total number of planets in the galax

  • it is still a guess (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The Keppler field of view is only a couple of thousands lightyear deep. That means the results are based on our neck of the woods only. Now, it may be ok to assume that other outskirts of the Milky Way are similar, but there is no reason to assume the same applies for the center of the galaxy, where most of the stars are, very closely packed.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Oh, I doubt there will be much in the center of the galaxy that is stable enough. There is an insane amount of radiation from supernovae, the core itself, probably insane numbers of collisions between solar systems as well.

      It could be possible for something to be there, but extremely unlikely.
      About the same chance of life evolving using heavier elements rather than the current lowest energy and stable elements.
      We know life is able to use an element in the same group that is further down when we found that

      • Bravo that Anonymous Coward. We have to get off this little wet rock at some point, either that or sit here until we eat ourselves into stagnation or (more likely) destruction. The longer we leave it the less likely it will be to happen. We started in the 50s but we've been stalled ever since Challenger. (I say "we" as "humanity".)
      • "The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one," he said

  • Figures (Score:5, Funny)

    by arcite (661011) on Monday January 07, 2013 @04:38PM (#42510475)
    100 billion planets and I have to be stuck on this one.
    • Re:Figures (Score:5, Funny)

      by Eddy_D (557002) on Monday January 07, 2013 @04:52PM (#42510661)
      Your only hope is to start hanging around in English bars and keeping an eye out for a weird looking dude carrying a towel.
    • Re:Figures (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pr0t0 (216378) on Monday January 07, 2013 @04:53PM (#42510673)

      If there is a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from.

    • Re:Figures (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ArsonSmith (13997) on Monday January 07, 2013 @05:36PM (#42511299) Journal

      A parallel study says that, of planets that can support life there is at least a 1 in 100billion chance that it will form there.

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        Not necessarily. It may be only only one in a billion, billion galaxies that ever support life at all. Personally I doubt that, but trying to do any statistical extrapolation at all from a sample of one is fundamentally flawed. As long as we're the only life we've detected, the most we can say is that the odds of life developing around a star are not probably not drastically better than 1/(number of stars we've conclusively confirmed to not harbor life)

        Oh, and your conclusion should leave out "can suppor

      • by mcrbids (148650)

        Another parallel study showed that 96.45% of all statistics posted in blogs and other social media were, in fact, made up.

        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          Hmm, 100 billion planets that might be able to support life, one that does. At least one in 100 billion. Not made up at all. Possibly wrong. Uses a single data point. Etc..etc..etc. but still not made up.

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            Hmm, 100 billion planets that might be able to support life, one that does. At least one in 100 billion. Not made up at all. Possibly wrong. Uses a single data point. Etc..etc..etc. but still not made up.

            No, it's not "at least one in 100 billion" odds of there being another planet supporting life at all. The odds may be far worse than that, we simply don't know until we actually find life somewhere else.

            Even if we could accurately estimate the entire number of planets in the universe at 100 billion billion billion billion (or whatever) it says nothing about the odds if we still don't actually find life elsewhere. If we found another life form somewhere in the universe, the odds would rocket from 1 in 10

            • by ArsonSmith (13997)

              I wasn't arguing that the statistic was right. Just that it wasn't made up on the spot. It was based on the available data. That is all you can base any statistic on.

  • by Baby Duck (176251) on Monday January 07, 2013 @04:47PM (#42510597) Homepage
    How long before we get visitors from the red-dwarf terrestials, flying around and zapping people with their heat vision? Dicks.
  • Everybody lives on a street in a city
    Or a village or a town for what it's worth.
    And they're all inside a country which is part of a continent
    That sits upon a planet known as Earth.
    And the Earth is a ball full of oceans and some mountains
    Which is out there spinning silently in space.
    And living on that Earth are the plants and the animals
    And also the entire human race.

    It's a great big universe
    And we're all really puny
    We're just tiny little specks
    About the size of Mickey Rooney.
    It's big and black and inky
    And w

  • The numbers associated with the universe are just amazing. The universe is so big that anything possible becomes probable... you might even say "anything possible is guaranteed to happen somewhere... and probably a lot of somewheres".

    You think the odds against intelligent life around any random star are one in 10^12? Then there should be at least 10^10 stars with intelligent life.

    The universe really is that vast.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      "I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

    • you might even say "anything possible is guaranteed to happen somewhere... and probably a lot of somewheres".

      You've been staying up too late watching quantum physics documentaries again, haven't you?

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      The universe is so big that anything possible becomes probable... you might even say "anything possible is guaranteed to happen somewhere... and probably a lot of somewheres".

      My understanding is that you need an infinite universe to be able to say that "anything possible is guaranteed to happen somewhere"? As with monkeys typing Shakespeare.

      Even a mind-bogglingly incomprehsible large number is still not infinity.

      • by Chuckstar (799005)

        The universe could be infinitely large. We usually talk about the "observable universe" because of that.

        But anyway, I was admittedly engaged in a little bit of hyperbole, but not much. The odds of intelligent life arising need to be astronomically small in order to feel confident there wouldn't be other intelligent life in the universe.

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