The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy that is home to our solar system, including Earth. It is named after the band of diffuse light that can be seen in the night sky, which is caused by the concentration of stars, gas, and dust in the galactic plane.
The University of Florida has just released new research demonstrating that one-third of planets in the Milky Way could be hosting some form of life.
Sarah Ballard, an astronomy professor from the University of Florida, and Sheila Sagear, a doctoral student at the university, released their findings last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Based on data collected from NASA’s Kepler and Gaia telescopes, one in three planets in the galaxy could be in the “Goldilocks” zone, where liquid water could exist, and life could potentially exist.
Out of the millions of dwarf planets to host life, the researchers found that it all came down to the number of planets a star has in its orbit.
“Sagear and Ballard found that stars with multiple planets were the most likely to have the kind of circular orbits that allow them to retain liquid water. Stars with only one planet were the most likely to see tidal extremes that would sterilize the surface,” explains Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Since one-third of the planets in this small sample had gentle enough orbits to potentially host liquid water, that likely means that the Milky Way has hundreds of millions of promising targets to probe for signs of life outside our solar system.”