Artist's rendering of exoplanets around a star. (Credit: NASA)Reported for KQEDnews.org.
The Earth may not be as unique as we think it is. That's according to findings announced today by UC Berkeley. Astronomers there believe that Earth-sized planets may be more abundant in the universe than previously thought.
For five years, a team of scientists lead by UC Berkeley watched 166 stars, similar in size to our Sun and all within 80 light years of Earth. In all, they discovered extra-solar planets or "exoplanets" orbiting 22 of the stars. Some are as large as Jupiter while others are about three times the size of Earth, the smallest planet they can detect. Smaller planets were found more frequently than the larger planets.
"We found smaller planets in spades," said astronomer Andrew Howard of UC Berkeley. Using the data, Howard and his team created a statistical model to predict what other planets might be present. "We extrapolated that trend down to Earth-sized planets."