Pack your bags: suns like ours may have lots of habitable planets

We're finding (potentially) habitable exoplanets more and more frequently, to the point where spotting another one is just not news unless it has two suns or something. New data from the Kepler space telescope may make further exoplanet discoveries even less exciting, now that we can guess just how many of them might be out there: it's lots.

The Kepler telescope is going to have to spend a lot more time (like, seven or eight years) staring at stars before it's able to detect the minute variations in their light caused by planets the size of Earth, but the data from Kepler's first complete census of larger planets can be used to extrapolate how many habitable alien Earths we might be able to expect.

Keeping in mind that this is all just statistics, with no hard data yet, the Kepler team has calculated that based on the frequency of big (non-habitable) planets orbiting close to their parent stars, the probability of finding a terrestrial, habitable-zone planet orbiting a star like our sun is a whopping 34%, plus or minus 14%. This is an absolutely huge number of potential alien Earths. Again, this is just an estimation based on Kepler's current data set, but within a few years, Kepler should start actually spotting all of these new Earths, and maybe a few years after that, it'll start spotting aliens waving back at us.

Paper, via MIT

For the latest tech stories, follow us on Twitter at @dvice