Alan Boss: Universe could have lots of Earth-like planets

Alan Boss: I think we’re on the verge of finding out just how many Earth-like planets there are in the universe.

That’s astronomer Alan Boss. He’s hoping to get more answers about Earth-like planets from NASA’s Kepler Mission, launched in March of 2009. Boss said Kepler is like a big digital camera attached to a telescope in space.

Alan Boss: It will be staring at 100,000 stars in the field of the constellations Cygnus and Lyra for roughly three and a half years looking for the periodic dimmings of those stars that are caused by Earth-like planets.

Boss said the universe could be crowded with rocky planets like Earth – some possibly with water, and even life.

Alan Boss: There are already indications that such Earth-like planets are going to be quite common – that is, Earth-like planets probably occur around essentially every solar-type star, or very close to that.

Boss bases his hunch on the fact that for nearby sun-like stars, about a third have turned up what are called ‘super-Earths,’ planets five to ten times more massive than Earth.

Alan Boss: We’re probably going to find hordes and hordes of more normal, terrestrial Earth-like planets

As we look up to the night sky, said Bass, nearly every star we see might have an Earth-like world, a hundred billion in our galaxy alone. His new book is called ‘The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets.’

Our thanks to:
Alan Boss
Research Staff Member
Department of Terrestrial Magnetism
Carnegie Institution of Washington

Visit EarthSky Tonight for easy-to-use night sky charts and info. Updated daily.

October 5, 2009

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