Planet Goldilocks: The habitable zone brims with possibilities

late astronomer Carl Sagan used the phrase "billions and billions" to refe r to the number of stars in our galaxy which is home to an estimated !"" billion# $s someone who de%oted years to the search for extraterrestrial i ntelligence Sagan would ha%e welcomed the report &onday in the 'ourn al Proceedings of the (ational $cademy of Science that puts the numbe r of )arth*sized planets in the galaxy at +#+ billion#

,sing ($S$ data scientists ha%e calculated that there are +#+ billion star s in the &ilky -ay galaxy that are similar to the sun# )ach of these +#+ bil lion suns hosts at least one planet that is similar to )arth in size# These pl anets are from one to two times the diameter of )arth and take between !"" and ."" days to circle their respecti%e stars in a year#

$lthough these planets re%ol%e in the not*too*hot not*too*cold Goldilock s zone they aren/t necessarily places that )arthlings would want to spen d their retirement years# Conditions likely range from too hot to unendur able because of poisonous atmospheres or rocky waterless terrain#

Still life could be as ubi0uitous on some of these worlds as it is here ** 'u st not the kind that humans are used to# 1t/s possible that a small percent age of the planets could harbor intelligent life although that disco%ery a ppears to be a long way off#

There will be no way of knowing whether life exists anywhere but here u ntil humans can achie%e deep space tra%el detect signals from an alien ci %ilization or obser%e distant worlds through super*powerful telescopes# $ fter all the nearest planet that fits some of the criterion for being )arth*l ike is 2" trillion miles away# That/s a long long way to go 'ust to find out nobody/s home#

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