Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Milky Way may bear 100 million life-giving planets

Date:
June 9, 2014
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
There are some 100 million other places in the Milky Way galaxy that could support complex life, according to new research by astronomers. They have developed a new computation method to examine data from planets orbiting other stars in the universe.

A new computation method to examine planets orbiting other stars suggests the Milky Way galaxy may house 100 million other places that could support complex life.
Credit: Courtesy of Planetary Habitability Laboratory, University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo

There are some 100 million other places in the Milky Way galaxy that could support complex life, report a group of university astronomers in the journal Challenges. They have developed a new computation method to examine data from planets orbiting other stars in the universe.

Their study provides the first quantitative estimate of the number of worlds in our galaxy that could harbor life above the microbial level.

"This study does not indicate that complex life exists on that many planets. We're saying that there are planetary conditions that could support it. Origin of life questions are not addressed -- only the conditions to support life," according to the paper's authors Alberto Fair้n, Cornell research associate; Louis Irwin, University of Texas at El Paso (lead author); Abel M้ndez, University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo; and Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Washington State University.

"Complex life doesn't mean intelligent life -- though it doesn't rule it out or even animal life -- but simply that organisms larger and more complex than microbes could exist in a number of different forms. For example, organisms that form stable food webs like those found in ecosystems on Earth," the researchers explain in an auxiliary statement.

The scientists surveyed more than 1,000 planets and used a formula that considers planet density, temperature, substrate (liquid, solid or gas), chemistry, distance from its central star and age. From this information, they developed and computed the Biological Complexity Index (BCI).

The BCI calculation revealed that 1 to 2 percent of the planets showed a BCI rating higher than Europa, a moon of Jupiter thought to have a subsurface global ocean that may harbor forms of life. With about 10 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, the BCI yields 100 million plausible planets.

Despite the large number of planets that could harbor complex life, the Milky Way is so vast that planets with high BCI values are very far apart, according to the scientists. One of the closest and most promising extrasolar systems, called Gliese 581, has two planets with the apparent, possible capacity to host complex biospheres. The distance from Earth to Gliese 581 is about 20 light years.

"It seems highly unlikely that we are alone," say the researchers. "We are likely so far away from life at our level of complexity that a meeting with such alien forms might be improbable for the foreseeable future."

The research, "Assessing the Possibility of Biological Complexity on Other Worlds, With an Estimate of the Occurrence of Complex Life in the Milky Way Galaxy," in Challenges, received no external funding.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. The original article was written by Blaine Friedlander. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Louis Irwin, Abel M้ndez, Alberto Fair้n, Dirk Schulze-Makuch. Assessing the Possibility of Biological Complexity on Other Worlds, with an Estimate of the Occurrence of Complex Life in the Milky Way Galaxy. Challenges, 2014; 5 (1): 159 DOI: 10.3390/challe5010159

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Milky Way may bear 100 million life-giving planets." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140609100725.htm>.
Cornell University. (2014, June 9). Milky Way may bear 100 million life-giving planets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140609100725.htm
Cornell University. "Milky Way may bear 100 million life-giving planets." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140609100725.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) — The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) — Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) — Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins