Nasa discovery boosts chances of finding alien life
Published 21/02/2011 | 07:50
The chances of finding alien life have been given a boost after it was revealed that one in two stars in the universe have Earth like planets orbiting around them.
The news came from NASA scientists studying the results from the Kepler telescope which in its first two years in space has found evidence of more than 1,200 planets in orbit around far distant stars.
The early findings suggests that there are triple the number of known planets outside our own solar system - 54 of them are Earth size and in the habitable zones from their suns.
Only two potentially habitable planets have previously been found outside earth's solar system, so Kepler scientists are very excited at finding so many possible candidate planets.
Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Kepler chief scientist William Borucki said: "I am really delighted that we are seeing so many candidate planets and that means there is a rich ocean of planets out there to explore.
"For every two stars we are seeing a candidate planet."
The next step is to send out new telescopes to see if the atmospheres of the planets, that are between 30 and 100 light years away, have friendly atmospheres on which life could survive.
It is another big step to prove that a confirmed planet has some of the basic conditions needed to support life, such as the proper size, composition, temperature and distance from its star.
More advanced aspects of habitability such as specific atmospheric conditions and the presence of water and carbon require telescopes that are not built yet.