A Jupiter-like gas giant planet orbits a young star in an artist’s conception. Credit: T. Pyle (SSC), NASA/JPL-Caltech
Of the billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy, 15 percent may host “twins” of our solar system, a new study says.
While that might not sound like much, the find suggests that several hundred million star systems look a lot like the one we call home, the study authors say.
The research is based on surveys of stars with gas giant planets—similar to Jupiter and Saturn—that orbit far from their stars.
As in our solar system, vast distances stretch between these stars and their gas giants. This creates ample room for rocky planets to thrive in the stars’ habitable zones, the regions where liquid water can exist.
And that boosts the likelihood that other Earths, and maybe even other forms of life, abound in the Milky Way.
“For the first ten years of planet hunting, we were feeling a bit worried—other systems looked so different from our own solar system,” noted Debra Fischer, an astronomer at San Francisco State University who was not involved in the research.
“[These] results are reassuring us that there are solar systems akin to our own. This is real data that strengthens the hypothesis that there are many habitable worlds like our Earth.”