Habitable planets more abundant than stars: study

April 30th, 2012 - 12:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, April 30 (IANS) Determining the habitability of rocky, earth-like planets will be crucial for us as a species, but the good news is that they are probably more abundant than stars, says a new study.

“Determining whether these planets are habitable has become the new holy grail of astronomy,” said planetary scientist Charley Lineweaver, from the Planetary Science Institute, Australian National University, who led the study.

“The new-found abundance of planets, combined with the much larger range of inhabited terrestrial environments suggests that habitable planets are common. This increases the probability of finding some kind of extraterrestrial life,” said Lineweaver, the Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences reports.

Fellow researcher and doctoral student Aditya Chopra said our best estimates of habitability come from the planet we know best: Earth, according to a statement of Planetary Science Institute.

“By comparing the inhabited and uninhabited regions of Earth, we can identify the most important factors that determine habitability. For terrestrial life, those factors are liquid water, a narrow range of temperature, and an energy source,” he said.

Lineweaver added: “Planetary habitability is a complex and confusing concept that we are only beginning to get our heads around, but as a species that wants to survive, it is in our interest to get our heads around it soon.”

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