Another planet with liquid water may lie within
light years of the Solar System.
DANA BERRY/NASA KEPLER MISSION

NATURE | BREAKING NEWS

Small stars host droves of life-friendly worlds

The galaxy’s most common type of star system often includes potentially habitable Earth-sized planets.

Ron Cowen
09 January 2013

Planets just like home — roughly the size of Earth and residing at a distance from a star where water would be liquid — are likely to orbit some of the stars nearest to the Solar System, according to a new statistical study using data from NASA’s Kepler telescope.

Courtney Dressing, an astronomer from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced the results on 8 January at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, California.

“This is terrific,” says Kepler researcher Natalie Batalha of San Jose State University in California, who was not part of the study but chaired the session where Dressing presented the findings. At the end of Dressing’s talk, Batalha was so stunned she momentarily forgot to ask the audience if there were any questions.

Dressing’s study, done in collaboration with Harvard colleague David Charbonneau, focusses on the occurrence of Earth-sized planets — which they define as planets having a radius between half and twice that of Earth — around so-called M dwarfs. These are cool, low-mass stars that account for about 75% of the stars in our galaxy.

Read more: Small stars host droves of life-friendly worlds : Nature News & Comment.

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